The Education Industry in Australia is one of those quiet earners. Year on year we have seen improvements, but after incidents of last year, we have seen that our market can easily go away. Whether to learn English or more advanced studies, students have many other choices than Australia. With a low US dollar, countries like Canada and the USA are much more competitive on the international market and the next few years will see a heating up as countries like China do their best to keep students in their own country. What is Australia doing about it?
- Visa process. The process of getting a student visa is still slow and a little complicated compared to some other countries, and a shake up is required. Although requirements for some countries such as India and China have been lowered, it is important that we see improvements in the actual process. The industry is currently waiting on government reports and recommendations on this issue that should be released in the middle of this year. Other countries such as the UK and New Zealand have much lower visa fees and also do not require students to have money in the bank for the whole course - requiring only to show they can support themselves for a year. This is a more realistic option.
- Study type. Countries like Canada are targeting India with a broader and easily accessible trade and community courses. Australia has seen a decline in these types of students as a result. Australia saw a recent fall of around 10% in these types of English and trade studies. These can often be bigger money earners than marketing courses and other higher-end studies.
- Bad press and losing India. The bad press in 2010 problems of Indian students being the target of racial hate and attacks has meant a real disaster for Australia. Applications have seriously plummeted. What is Australia going to do about this to make it more appealing again? The USA and Canada have capitalised on this right when their dollars are cheaper. Indian student numbers will be less than 50% of what they were.
- Loss of fees and schools closing. Did you know that over 15 private colleges closed in 2010 and over 3000 students were affected - many of them losing their fees. In an industry where people are choosing a country, there is an obligation that must be met by the country to guarantee the welfare of the students. We are selling our country and not just its education.
- Immediate effect. It must be understood that the drop in students coming to Australia has an immediate effect on many jobs and many lives in Australia. It is not just the economy that suffers. People who have invested their lives in the industry are having their lives shattered.
- Pathway to permanent residency. There is always the issue that many students use it as a pathway to a residency visa. Is this not fair in itself? If people are investing many years of their life with substantial financial investment, and they have good qualifications, then why should they not be allowed to stay? We are living in an international world and the more diversified Australia becomes, the better off it will be. Australia needs to grow up and take a more international approach to the students and their future, just like Canada, the USA and Britain do.