AUSTRALIA risks killing the goose that laid the golden egg. By failing to act decisively to protect the welfare and interests of overseas students, federal and state education authorities have allowed a debacle in the vocational training sector to tarnish the entire university system.
Reputation is just about all a university has in the increasingly globalised higher education market. And the Australian system, which reels in overseas students who contribute an estimated
$15.5 billion to the economy, was regarded as a provider of reliable, if not top-shelf, tuition in a safe destination. No longer.
Between 2007 and this year, Indian university students enrolled here grew from 20,342 to 22,033 — a modest rise. Indian enrolments in the vocational sector erupted from 14,893 to 51,990.
With the exception of bottom-feeders such as Central Queensland University, which allowed overseas enrolments to grow comparably to the vocational colleges, the university system has taken its responsibilities seriously. This crisis was not, by and large, of its making, yet it will share the pain.
The bad press about Australia’s overseas student program — unscrupulous agents, violence, predatorial campuses — will doubtless dampen demand for vocational courses acting as immigration conduits. No bad thing; growth of that order was unsustainable.
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