International education policy settings must look to our future

Any changes to Australia’s international education policy settings must have an eye firmly on maintaining our global reputation, economic prosperity and social progress, according to a new report that emphasises the importance of international education to our future.

The Lygon Group’s University internationalisation futures report, commissioned by Universities Australia, highlights the significant role education plays in supporting economic growth and geopolitical stability.

Looking ahead over the next three decades, the report canvasses potential changes in the international landscape and both the challenges and opportunities they present for universities.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the report reinforced the need for a proactive and strategic approach to international education that acknowledges the significant benefits it brings to the nation.

“Australian universities have spent decades working carefully and strategically to build a world-class international education sector,” Ms Jackson said.

“This position of strength has seen education grow to become a multi-billion-dollar export industry that underpins a higher and more sustainable standard of living for all Australians.

“The skills and talents of international students add to Australia’s skills mix and the sector plays an important role in shaping global responses to global problems through research and soft power.

“What our universities do in an international context is only becoming more important as we navigate a rapidly changing environment.

“Any changes to our international education policy settings, now or in the future, need to be weighed carefully against the enormous benefits for which the sector is responsible.”

Projections in the report indicate Australia’s major source markets for international students will change in the coming decades, with both China and India’s populations predicted to fall and nations in Africa and southeast Asia rising as centres of population growth.

Ms Jackson said as global population shifts occur, the provision of the education international students need and deserve must also shift.

“Australia can and should have a role in educating people across the globe, off the back of a mature and nation-enhancing system we have already established,” Ms Jackson said.

“We will continue to educate students from India, Nepal and China, but the projected changes to the global population mean we will need to engage with new partners to sustain education as a major export industry.”

Read the full report on The Lygon Group’s website.

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