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Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-30 Vs. UK Government’s International Education Strategy: Global Potential, Global Growth (2021 update)
The Australian Government have published their own ‘Strategy for International Education’, aimed at helping their education sector recover from the pandemic. Four priorities have been set to increase the international student population in the country since the pandemic, including growth and global competitiveness, and tailoring programmes to meet the country’s skills needs. Within the UK, we can see similarities to our own International Education Strategy, of which an updated version was published in 2021, with a similar goal to strengthen our Higher Education and attract more International students to the UK.
This document draws on comparisons that can be identified and made between the two strategies. Australia has extended their equivalent Graduate Route from two to three years, is allowing remote studying to count towards qualifying for the graduate visa, and allowing temporary student and graduate visa holders who lost time due to the pandemic’s travel restrictions to reapply for a replacement visa. In addition, they are putting money into targeted support measures including fee relief.
To measure progress, the Australian Government have not set specific numerical targets, instead assessing improvement annually with an aim to progress year on year (including student satisfaction with their course and integration), something that pushes them to aim higher every year. This is in contrast to the UK Government who set out flat targets with a number to aim for by 2030 in their IES. Having already achieved one of the two targets, the sector now faces the challenge of keeping momentum and not dropping below, or stagnating around the target figure.
Almost a year from when the UK Government published their updated IES (February 2021), the Australian Government released their own strategy document (November 2021). This is in light of their rising numbers over the last decade suffering a large dip in the pandemic, and the resulting possibility of losing skilled workers that would affect their economy. The strategy from Australians sets out not only their aims, but a clear way of how to measure it; their measure for success includes not only numbers but satisfaction of the course and integration.
(Image: Mitchell Institute for Education and Health Policy at Victoria University)
New student visa applications in Australia decreased by 70% in the 12-month visa application cycle October 2020-September 2021 (the main cause being the closed borders). Meanwhile, the UK’s international student visa applications were rising. (Student, interrupted: International education and the pandemic report 2021 by Mitchell Institute).
COVID halved international student numbers in Australia. The risk now is we lose future skilled workers and citizens (theconversation.com)
Priorities of the Australian strategy:
Sets out how to measure success: growth in number of students enrolled in offshore and transnational education (HE student information collection); growth in proportion of international students employed or enrolled in further study after graduation (QILT* Graduate Outcomes Survey); growth in proportion of international students who are satisfied or very satisfied with studying and living in Australia (QILT Student Experience Survey). All measured as year-on-year growth.
*Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching
These are set out in actions:
The overarching aim of the UK Government is to move from recovery to sustainable growth.
Priorities of the UK Government to achieve by 2030:
This will be assisted by: the International Education Champion setting out priority target countries; building lasting global partnerships with the help of the IEC and the Turing Scheme; enhancing the international student experience all the way from application to employment; establishing a new teaching qualification for international teachers to train; increase export opportunities for UK chartered professional bodies and SEND providers.
There are no explicit ways of measuring progress, but 23 actions have been set out, targeted at all areas of the education sector and their needs to tie the priorities and overarching aim to them all. The updated 2021 strategy includes an update on the progress of each.
Australia temporary graduate visa (equivalent to the UK Graduate Route) extended to 3 years for Masters students; temporary graduate visas for VET graduates temporarily increased from 18 to 24 months and temporary removal of requirement for qualification assessment and occupation nomination from the skilled occupations list; recognise offshore studying online as counting towards qualifying for a temporary graduate visa.
Allowing temporary graduate visa holders, who lost time due to pandemic travel restrictions, to reapply for a replacement visa.
UK Graduate Route for 2 years (3 years if PhD); points-based immigration route with student and child routes; Turing scheme providing funding for around 35,000 students in universities, colleges, and schools to go on overseas placements. During the pandemic also introduced: student hardship fund and immigration flexibilities.
The graduate route is only open to students that are studying in the UK and applying from within the country. They must hold a valid student visa.
Australia will give over $37 (£20) million in targeted support measures including regulatory fee relief (for up to 12 months) and an Innovation Development Fund for English language providers
Nothing on funding for English language lessons, only a brief note that the Government support UK pathway providers to help students improve their English language or study skills before attending a UK university, and that there are visa routes in place that allow individuals to study English in the UK before applying for another type of visa requiring a level of ability in the language to study a degree programme.
Aims to encourage international students to study subjects/courses where much-needed skills are taught through diversifying qualification levels in them, targeted career initiatives, and making more available micro-credentials and short courses (social inclusion).
Work Integrated Learning (WIL) also provides students with practical experience relevant to their course of study, including internships, placements and projects, and prepares students with the skills required to participate in the global workforce following their studies.
Aims to enhance the international student experience from application to employment.
Develop an evidence database of success stories with the graduate route through UUKi and BUILA graduate outcomes survey
Study UK Campaign
UKCISA will collaborate with the CBI, UUKi, and key education and employer groups to support international student employability, gaining an understanding of student needs and barriers.
Having international students in the classroom builds cultural understanding among the local students and prepares them for a globalised workforce. This cultural understanding is also built in the local communities, adding diversity to the country and society.
Government wants to go beyond the classroom and work with the sector and Australian communities to champion social cohesion. This includes internships and employer networks, extra-curricular activities, fostering a sense of belonging for the international students in the local communities.
Continued support of the Colombo Plan (a mobility programme for student study and internships in the Indo-Pacific region) and other educational mobility partnerships to develop their intercultural awareness not only at home but abroad on outgoing mobilities.
£1 million invested in a tactical campaign across 16 key markets to help make clear the desire for international students from diverse backgrounds, as well as using other online campaigns and resources to have a wider reach across the globe to potential students.
OfS and UKCISA will launch a new project that will aim to find ‘what works’ in ensuring international students can integrate and receive a fulfilling academic experience in the UK. It will explore the positive impact international students have on home students, and what longer term lessons can be learnt from their response to the coronavirus pandemic on provider-level delivery and student engagement.
£100m into the Turing Scheme for 35,000 students to encourage educational mobility exchanges to other countries, helping to support their broader internationalisation agenda.
Australia has extended their equivalent graduate route visa to 3 years allowing graduates more time to start their career and making it easier for students to apply for replacement visas that expired during the pandemic. Further, remote learning is recognised as counting towards their graduate visa. This goes hand in hand with their expansion of high-quality higher education into online and offshore markets, not feeling as strong a need for face-to-face teachings as the UK and giving their international students more flexibility of what location to study from. The focus is on getting an Australian education and retaining the graduates for employment in the country over ensuring the students are studying in person and the mode of delivery.
With Employability, in Australia there is no support or encouragement for institutions to increase career advice and support for graduates on employability. Instead, the strategy focuses on the Work Integrated Learning and encouraging students to study subjects connected to employer needs, and giving them the tools (visa, skillset, etc.) needed to gain employment.
With data collection and measuring success, Australia and the UK both rely on good data collection to track institutional and international student success and place a need for this data. The UK noted a need for enhancing the evidence base of recent international graduates with the help of UUKi and BUILA building a major international graduate survey, as well as OfS working with HESA to improve the quality and reliability of the current Graduate Outcomes (something that will be negatively impacted by HESA ceasing calls to international numbers, despite this importance for data being noted in the strategy). Australia goes one step further, using its government-funded graduate surveys to measure not only the number of international students employed or enrolled in further education, but also measures the improvement of student satisfaction through the Student Experience Survey. These two measurements, measured through the data gathered from these surveys, make up the three-part measurement used to determine Australia’s success in international education. In contrast to the UK specific numerical targets, Australia’s targets are focused more on continual growth, measured through their multiple student and graduate surveys.
On international student integration and internationalisation, the UK focuses mostly on the financial benefits of the international students, both for institutions and labour market retention. There is less of an emphasis on the wellbeing of the student and the benefits these international students bring to the local students’ intercultural understanding as there is in Australia, and such international experiences are seen to stem more from outward mobility and living in another country over direct contact with international students. However, the UK still values the impact of UK students on the international students and the contribution international students make to the culture and labour market, and so it looks at how we can better support them under Action 5 of the IES, not only in employability needs, but also what the local students gain from studying with international students and how to increase quality integration into the local community and society.
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