Opinion: Opportunities galore for WA universities

April 27, 2017

Murdoch University Vice Chancellor, Professor Eeva Leinonen

Murdoch University's Vice Chancellor Professor Eeva Leinonen shares her insights into the opportunities for international education in Australia.

The US election of President Trump and Britain’s decision to exit the European Union together represent a seismic shift in international relations. Old alliances are being recast and the freedom of travel of citizens from one nation to another is now less clear than just a year ago.

These are uncertain times but for Australian universities there is an opportunity.

In 2015, there were 498,155 international students who came to this country to further their education and as a nation we rank third in the world for attracting tertiary students.

The two countries ahead of us are the US and the UK — and both of these have made policy changes in the past few months that make them less attractive to the international student market.

Britain recently triggered Article 50, to begin its withdrawal from the European Union, and already the number of EU applications to British universities has seen a decline.

Figures released in February by the UK Universities and Colleges Admission Service show a sharp drop in the number of applications in the January cut-off dates. After growing steadily over the past three years, EU applications have fallen by 7 per cent.

In the US, the impact of contested travel bans on people from a range of countries has also had an impact.

The New York Times last month reported 40 per cent of colleges had seen a decline in the number of overseas applications, with the sharpest falls coming from the Middle East, China and India.

So why should Australia look to become a viable alternative for students who might otherwise have targeted the US and UK?

International education is worth $18.8 billion to Australia, making it our third largest export.

The sector supports 130,700 full time equivalent employees in Australia, nearly 10,000 of them in WA.

Besides the enormous value that international students provide by culturally enriching our universities through their studies, they also make a material contribution to our economy, through local spending and tourism.

Although there is growing recognition of the importance of international education as a sector, more needs to be done to win students to Australia in general and WA in particular.

Australia’s position in third place as a destination for international students faces competition from the next countries in line: France, Germany, Japan and Canada.

As a nation we have six per cent of the world’s international student market. Western Australia has six per cent of the international market in Australia. Our goal must be to grow both those shares.

The challenge for policy makers and universities is how best to use this moment to reaffirm Australia’s commitment to students across the globe.

The National Strategy for International Education 2025, released last year, sets a number of goals, including delivering the best possible student experience and promoting the excellence offered by Australian universities.

Murdoch is already one of Australia’s most internationally focused universities, ranked sixth in the country for international outlook. Our goal is to strengthen our position as Western Australia’s global university, and be in the top one per cent of the most international universities in the world.

International students bring new ideas and perspectives that improve the education we offer. They are our global ambassadors, who return from our shores able to share what they have learned from us with the world.

Now is the time for Western Australia to ensure all international students feel welcome and to promote the option of studying in a beautiful, affordable and safe city like Perth.

That means countering the myth that Perth is too expensive, and highlighting our position among the world’s top 10 liveable cities, the advantages of our time zone, and the benefits that will emerge once Perth receives direct flights from Europe.

As challenging as the dual issues of Brexit and a more isolated US are, there are opportunities for Western Australia to open the door — and make it clear that universities in Perth are ready to welcome students from across the globe with an education that is world class.

At Murdoch University, the welcome will always be warm.

A version of this opinion piece was run in the West Australian on Thursday 27 April.


Print This Post Print This Post

Media contact: Pepita Smyth
Tel: (08) 9360 1289  |  Mobile: 0417 171 551  |  Email: p.smyth@murdoch.edu.au
Categories: General, International students
Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a comment

You can use these tags : <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

We read every comment and will make every effort to approve each new comment within one working day. To ensure speedy posting, please keep your comments relevant to the topic of discussion, free of inappropriate language and in-line with the editorial integrity of this newsroom. If not, your comments may not be published.

Thanks for commenting!