Vic international education strategy – strategic directions

21 July 2015

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The following  summary of the paper’s suggested strategic directions outline how economic development and job creation in the international education sector could be optimised by supporting the sector to increase its competitiveness. 

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Strategic Direction One: A long-term approach to market-development

Victoria’s two biggest markets are China and India, from which almost 50 per cent of onshore international students are drawn. Significant numbers of students are also attracted from South East Asian countries, in particular, Malaysia and Vietnam. This provides a strong base to consolidate Victoria’s standing in the region, while expanding onshore enrolments and offshore education services throughout Asia and beyond.

Reliance on a few markets can however pose risks to the sustainable growth of Victorian international education, making the state vulnerable to ‘shocks’ or downturns that may occur within markets. It is therefore important to encourage diversity in the sector, across student population, courses and providers. This helps to build the resilience of the sector and also facilitates a positive student education experience.

Strategic Direction Two: Supporting the higher education sector

Victoria’s universities and non-university higher education providers have been very effective at developing international student markets. Higher education accounts for about 45 per cent of Victoria’s onshore international student enrolments meaning that the presence of international students is felt across almost all university campuses.

Onshore higher education students come to Victoria to study a diverse range of programs. These include undergraduate courses and postgraduate coursework and research programs that result in the awarding of an Australian qualification. A significant number also come as a part of shorter study abroad and exchange programs, usually credited towards a qualification awarded in their home country.

Currently, international enrolments account for about a third of the total student body across all universities. In recent years there has been growth in the number of postgraduate enrolments in Victoria. This, combined with limited growth in undergraduate enrolments over recent years, means that postgraduate students now account for almost half of international higher education students in Victoria.

Strategic Direction Three: Leading in quality teaching and learning approaches

In the next decade, models of education delivery, teaching and learning will continue to be transformed. This is driven by the need to meet student demands and to continue to create viable delivery models to service a global market. How well Victorian institutions fully embrace and embed offshore and online delivery will be key success factors for the sustainability of the sector. Many Victorian institutions are now thinking more holistically about the integration of onshore, offshore and online teaching and learning approaches to meet student’s needs. There are opportunities and challenges for all sectors.

Strategic Direction Four: Supporting a high-quality and globally oriented VET sector

Vocational education and training in Victoria is provided through technical and further education (TAFE) institutes, adult and community education providers and private providers, as well as some universities. Following changes to Australia’s migration settings in 2010, onshore VET sector exports in Victoria underwent a necessary correction, finally returning to growth in 2013-14, experiencing increases of 8.2 per cent in enrolments and 17.7 per cent in commencements. Overall, the VET sector accounts for 25 per cent of international students in Victoria, with major markets being India and China.

Victoria is the national leader in delivering offshore Australian training qualifications. There are significant opportunities over the coming decade for TAFEs and high-quality private VET providers to increase provision of offshore training. In Asia alone, the key markets are estimated to be worth billions of dollars as countries realise the value of a skilled workforce to their economies and seek large-scale reform and investment in VET.

These offshore opportunities are numerous. They can range from providing advice to foreign governments about how to replicate our industry-led vocational training approach through to partnering with industry, other education institutions and governments to deliver customised training.

Strategic Direction Five: Growing international engagement in the schools sector

The commitment to make Victoria the Education State recognises the integral role of international education as an export for both schools and higher education, as well as the value of internationalising education in our schools.

This strategic direction considers the opportunity to grow international education in the schools sector, recognising the operating environments of both government and non-government schools. In addition to the economic benefit of international students, underlying this discussion is the tenet that internationalising schools will prepare our young people for life and work in an increasingly globalised world, contribute significantly to our economy, and help Victorian business access a workforce they need to compete globally.

Strategic Direction Six: Growing international education in the regions

The Victorian Government is committed to bringing jobs, growth and investment to the regions. A key consideration for the development of a new International Education Action Plan will be the identification of specific measures that promote opportunities for international students to choose to live and study in regional Victoria.

While a large proportion of onshore international students have a preference to study in metropolitan centres, regional providers can offer niche expertise and significant industry expertise in fields of global significance such as food and agriculture, soil and water, energy and resources, and environment. While a focus on these capabilities may support growth in onshore education, it is offshore opportunities that may deliver the biggest opportunities for regional education providers.

Furthermore, many regional centres offer distinctive, community-focussed lifestyle opportunities that may be attractive to particular segments of the schools and tertiary student market. Attracting these types of students, and potentially retaining them to undertake multiple courses of study, may also bolster regional Victoria’s standing as an education exporter. For example, regional senior secondary schools often have strong links with their local university campuses and TAFE institutes. Dedicated pathway programs and transition supports that meet the specific needs of international students could increasingly be a product of these linkages.

Strategic Direction Seven: Enhancing the experience for international students

The experience that international students have of living in a particular location influences that place’s attractiveness as an education destination. ‘Word of mouth’ is an important source of information in the decision making process of potential international students. Sustained focus on experience is therefore crucial to the ongoing strength of Victoria as an education destination.

Activity to improve international students’ experience beyond the classroom can be categorised as either:

  • addressing issues a student may face during their time in Victoria, particularly relating to a broad range of welfare matters such as accommodation, employment, health services or where students are victims of crime
  • enhancing what is on offer to students during their stay, including providing a premium-value experience, particularly in relation to career readiness, and improving social connectedness to each other and the local community.

In the Australian context, Victoria is highly regarded for its focus on enhancing student experience. Through collaboration, local, state and federal governments and education institutions have led the way in driving an integrated approach towards maximising the chance that students have a positive time while studying here.

The government’s key contribution is the Study Melbourne Student Centre, a physical access point for all its student-facing initiatives and the location of a team of staff providing information and welfare support to students. It is the only centre of its kind in Australia, and quite likely the world. These types of actions have contributed to Melbourne being assessed by QS Rankings as among the best student cities in the world, second only to Paris.

Strategic Direction Eight: Maximising the secondary benefits of international education

In addition to the direct economic benefits provided by international education, there are a number of important indirect benefits that accrue to Victoria from a thriving international education sector.

There are flow-on benefits to and from the tourism industry through non-leisure visits by students’ friends and family. Graduation ceremonies for example are significant events attracting large numbers of visiting friends and relatives as tourists to the state.

Further, the increasing propensity for individuals to visit Victoria both as a tourist and student means benefits can be derived from positioning Melbourne, Victoria, as an attractive global destination. Many short course English language students enter Australia on tourist visas and later complete higher qualifications under a student visa, extending their stay in Victoria. Currently, around 26 per cent of English language students in Victoria are non-student visa holders, with Japan and Korea accounting for almost two thirds (58 per cent) of this group.

Strategic Direction Nine: Driving a collaborative approach to supporting international education

The government recognises that it must work collaboratively in order to support the future success of Victoria’s international education sector. It is clear that a partnership approach with education providers must be the foundation of such an approach. There is an opportunity to build on the existing collaborative efforts that Victorian providers have become well-regarded for in the sector. Equally, ensuring that the student voice is heard and that students are an active participant in cooperative efforts to grow and support the sector, is also fundamental. However, to succeed in the development of international education as a long term future sector for the state, cooperation with other levels of government is paramount. The business community, both locally and internationally, are also important partners in the international education sector.

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