The Australian government has announced a new council that will create a national strategy for international education, but while the country’s higher education sector agrees that such a plan is necessary and timely, it has also generated controversy.
The Coordinating Council for International Education was part of the Draft National Strategy for International Education released in March. Roundtable discussions occurred on June 18th, with another scheduled for August 13th, for the purpose of finalizing the strategy.
Minister for Education and Training Christopher Pyne said that everyone must come together to help drive the agenda:
The roundtables will be a platform for consulting with the international education community, and to get everyone working together to make Australian international education the best in the world.
Members include both ministers and stakeholders in the issue, writes Beckie Smith of PIE News, and is chaired by Pyne. Other members include the CEO of Universities Australia, Belinda Robinson; the IEAA CEO, Phil Honeywood; CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kate Carnell; Executive Director of English Australia, Sue Blundell; the Education chair of Adelaide, Bill Spurr; and the acting CEO of TAFE Directors Australia, Malcolm White.
Anne-Marie Lansdown, UA’s deputy chief executive, said that broad communication provides an opportunity to strengthen the sector:
By bringing all relevant government ministers together and sitting the experts around the table, we now have the firepower needed to strengthen and expand the sector as well as deepening international collaboration.
This whole-of-government and whole-of-sector approach is essential to ensure to continued success of our international education services and the ongoing internationalization of our education and research agenda.
Blundell added that coordinating efforts throughout education and government will be a key focus:
There is important work to be done in ensuring we deliver a strategy that reflects a coordinated and consistent approach across all levels of government and is developed in partnership with education providers, industry and the wider community.
Rod Jones, the co-founder and CEO of Navitas, the largest private education provider in Australia, wrote a blog post on the draft national strategy. He raises the concern that it does not account for possible changes in the future such as increasing competition from Europe and other regions, and that the policy may not offer what he describes as strong two-way, long-term collaborations with developing countries.
Overseas countries are looking for mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships, two-way mobility, and collaboration across cultures to improve their own education systems. Their focus is on developing their people, the vast majority of whom are not able to travel for an education. These countries will increasingly look to education institutions and consortia that deliver gains to all parties and invest time and money in human capital building. An internationalised education sector that delivers a global mindset will be valued. However, institutions that only recruit students to study in Western countries will not be seen as preferred partners.
Canada, too, has been dealing with these concerns, writes Roger Chao Jr. of University World News. In January 2014, the nation launched its international education strategy developed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, but it has since proven to have some important problems. Its strategy leaves out key experts, doesn’t account for provincial and territorial differences, and doesn’t do anything to bolster the international reputation of Canadian universities, among other problems, writes Chao.