In 2011 there was a lot of debate in Melbourne around the future of international education and international students in Melbourne. I thought we were missing a great opportunity in not embracing and maintaining relations with students after they returned home. I proposed the following ideas in the Richard Searby Oration (the relevant extract can be viewed here). I am glad to say these ideas are becoming government policy.
International students are an asset.
We have had lots of debate recently around international education. I have written on how this industry and export is under threat.
The question I pose today is: do we gain enough advantage from this trade?
Let me propose two ideas:
- Every Australian Embassy in the South East and South Asian region should foster the creation of an “Australian Alumni”. Many senior political and business leaders in the Asia Pacific region have received some or all of their education in Australia. We should maximise the diplomatic, cultural and business advantages by keeping track and fostering a lifetime cultural connection between former students and our country. While some universities are doing this, surely the Australian Government should do so as part of a soft diplomatic outreach.
- We should allow Australian Businesses that are looking to expand into the region to employ students post-qualification in Australia. We should allow them a year or two to understand the culture of the business and then be beach head staff employed back in their home countries by our companies and thereby allow the Australian business to have a better chance to thrive. Unlike UK and US, in Australia students must leave immediately post qualification and we rob from our economy the ability to learn from them, in part return for the learning that we provided. While the Knight review has proposed a similar change, we are yet to see it take place in law.