International education is growing at a rapid pace and has become the third largest contributor to Australia’s economy.¹ As more students across the globe choose Australia as a preferred study destination, the struggle to retain some of this talent is real.
The Higher Education and Vocational Education & Training (VET) sector cater to 75% of the total international students in Australia² and are the key sectors that prepare an individual for the labour market. This piece of work aims to anticipate (and to guide) the future of international education in Australia in the next two decades from an overseas students’ perspective.
Matching Education with Students’ and Employers’ Needs
As students from various parts of the world will continue to arrive to Australia, it will be a challenge to create an education system that suits the needs of the student, the employer as well as the industry norms.
Universities will be constantly required to change their course offerings to meet the demands of the workforce. Rather than a ‘one size fits all approach’, more tailored offerings would have to be developed to suit the grasping ability, prior knowledge and interest of students from various regions.
Students are starting to prefer specific short courses with practical exposure rather than lengthy theoretical degrees. Concepts such as unbundling and modular education are becoming more mainstream and a part of regular offering.³ Universities need to collaborate with the industry and provide a more holistic education by preparing students to be job ready – not only the technical knowledge but also from cultural awareness and simulated training perspective.4 Embracing international students in Australian workplace is becoming popular. This would be an opportunity for local businesses to then leverage the nuanced experience of natives to establish, run or grow their business overseas.5
To strengthen this collaboration, a 360° feedback model should be adopted where the university, the employer and the student exchange constructive criticism based on their experiences. To create an enhanced education experience and to spark lifelong learning, students should be involved in the design of courses to include specific topics of their interest.
Research indicates that innovation and entrepreneurship would be some of the top skills for the future workforce.6 While there are some courses focussing on entrepreneurship offered as master’s level programs, it must be appreciated that innovation or entrepreneurship will be within basic disciplines such as engineering, health sciences, nursing, sports or others. Consequently, in order to ensure that the potential of such entrepreneurship courses can be realised to the fullest, it would be wise to integrate it with the mainstream offering of the course itself.
Non-traditional formats to foster the International Education Sector
International education in Australia seems to have a promising future, yet there is a whole new area where it could be expanded. Transnational Education (TNE) is an emerging concept where universities extend their courses and qualifications beyond home countries.7 Developing countries in the African and Asian region have large number of students willing to study from an overseas institute but are not be able to do so owing to financial or other constraints. Over next two decades, Australian universities may be able to reach out to these students through TNE, MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) or partnerships with local institutions.8
This would ensure that students get a qualification that would be recognised in Australia, making it easier to transit or integrate them into Australian workforce at a later stage.
Experience in dealing with international students indicates that they would like to be prepared for the education system prior to arriving to Australia. Universities in Australia seem to be initiating steps in this direction by creating partnerships with education institutions abroad.9
This model could be strengthened by opening study centres in certain countries – where students can undertake a part of their studies in their home country, with the remaining studies in Australia. This could help ensure that Australian education and qualification remains relevant outside Australia as well. A challenge in implementing the TNE or partnership model would be the recognition of qualifications across countries to promote student mobility.10
We are in a period of great uncertainty where a student commencing a three to five-year degree may find that most of what they studied in the first year is outdated as they near completion of their course. It is a challenge to ensure that the education framework remains up to date with the market demands in order for the employability levels of graduates not to diminish.11
1Australian Government Department of Education and Training, ‘Export Income to Australia from International Education Activity in 2017’ (Research Snapshot, June 2018).
2 Australian Government Department of Education and Training, ‘International Student Data: Monthly Summary’ (Monthly Summary, August 2018)
3 Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi, An Avalanche is Coming:
Higher Education and the Revolution Ahead (Institute for Public Policy Research, March 2013), 32-48.
4 Ernst & Young, Can the Universities of Today Lead Learning for Tomorrow? The University of the Future, 30.
5 International Education Association of Australia, International Students: A Guide for Australian Employers, 5.
6 AI Group, Developing the Workforce for a Digital Future: Addressing Critical Issues and Planning for Action, 14-22.
7 Australian Government Department of Education and Training, ‘Transnational Education in the Higher Education Sector’ (Research Snapshot, October 2016).
8 Angel Calderon, ‘What Will Higher Education be Like in 2040?’ on Global Edition, University World News (11 September 2015) <http://www.universityworldnews.
9 Simon Lancaster, ‘Higher education in the UK and Australia: A Cross-Continental Discussion’, Nous Group <https:// www.nousgroup.com/insights/transforming connecting/>.
10 Australian Government Department of Education and Training, ‘National Strategy for International Education 2025’ (Strategy, April 2016) 24-25.
11 Ernst & Young, ‘EY Calls on Australian Universities to Future-Proof or Risk Major Disruption’, EY News (1 May 2018).
Pratik Ambani is the President of Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS), Founder and President of Network for International Law Students Australia (NILS) and Co-Founder of Monash Cultural & Lingual Appreciation Network (M-CLAN). He is also an Ambassador for the Faculty of Law and a participant of Leadership Excellence with John Bertrand AO at Monash University.
Pratik has an extensive experience in dealing with international students and student issues. As a recognition of his contribution to the sector, he was nominated as a finalist for International Student of the Year – Higher Education at the Victorian International Education Awards 2017.
Pratik is an international student from India and pursuing Master of Laws (Juris Doctor) at Monash University. He holds an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering and 5 years of post-qualification experience in project management at Larsen & Toubro Ltd.