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Australian Current Affairs

Australian government moves to protect international education industry


University of Sydney

University of Sydney

Australia’s Labor government will create a top-level council to devise a new strategy to protect Australia’s $15 billion international education industry from tough new competition overseas.

The council would bring ministers and sector representatives together in a move in line with the recommendations of the Chaney report released in February, following complaints from the industry about a lack of policy co-ordination.

It includes a long-promised commitment to extend “streamlined visa processing” to make it easier for international students to get visas, following criticism from the industry and the opposition that the government has been sitting on a decision for 18 months.

Such streamlined processing is limited to universities, but Labor is now promising to extend it before the end of the year to TAFE and private providers. The opposition has already promised to extend streamlined processing.

Innovation Minister Kim Carr yesterday released a series of policies on universities, international education and research that is long on reviews and plans rather than concrete measures. But it puts pressure on the Coalition to release its higher education and research policies.

Labor yesterday claimed the Coalition would reintroduce policies allowing universities to offer places for upfront fees.

But opposition higher education spokesman Brett Mason dismissed this as a scare campaign and said the Coalition had no such plan.

The centrepiece of Labor’s higher education policy has been the expansion of university places. They have been increased by 35 per cent since 2007, with the addition of 190,000 students.

Labor is now putting $2.5 million into studying the feasibility of creating a network in areas of low participation that would offer courses linked to local universities. Locations for these would include the NSW central coast, east Perth and southeast Melbourne.

“We are in the middle of one of the great cultural reforms in our nation’s history — nothing less than opening up avenues of opportunity to whole sections of our community for the first time,” Labor said in its policy document. “Labor started that revolution and we are determined to continue it.”

But the sector was disappointed there was no commitment from either of the main parties to reverse the Gillard government’s $2.3bn in cuts to universities and student support.

“It is a great contextual statement but it’s disappointing there doesn’t appear to be any discussion of the effects of the cuts,” Universities Australia chairwoman Sandra Harding said.

Source: The Australian – Back to board on foreign students
 
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