Challenges in international recruitment


the sector has a lot to think about as it pursues a more diverse, post-COVID future

After CMM’s conversation on Monday with leaders in the sector canvassing international education’s soft power role and the implications of the world not being at Fukuyama’s “end of history” – it is with some regret that my column today focuses on more mundane international education issues.

Conversations with leaders in the sector and recent media reports have given me pause to reflect on the sector’s approaches. Firstly a senior leader in the private international education sector (with extensive experience in China) is very bleak in his assessment of the short-medium future of the Chinese market for Australian universities.

Others clearly hold similar views as the sector shifts and some Australian universities previously heavily focussed on China are now reducing their fees and looking to scale up recruitment in India and other markets. Regrettably, with little experience in these markets, there are reports that some Australian universities have been hit very hard by visa fraud problems, particularly in India.

I note that the Association for Australian Education Representatives in India (AAERI) has launched a new Code of Conduct aimed at strengthening visa checking which is especially welcome after the visa frauds the US embassy alerted the Indian police to recently.

There are considerable risks to universities as they look to diversify, with many of the new markets they are looking to recruit students from categorised as higher risk by the Department of Home Affairs. Deep knowledge in these countries will not come quickly and it is likely that many will need expert partners on-the-ground to help them avoid reputational damage from poor recruitment decisions.

Returning to India, it is an ever more complex market for Australia following the news that the German and Indian governments have signed a “migration and mobility” partnership. With Germany offering fee-free tuition to all international (and domestic) students and increasingly teaching courses in English, it is unsurprising that in 2020 there were already more than 25,000 Indian higher education students in Germany. That compares with 79,200 Indian students in Australian higher education at the end of 2020.

Finally I note recent research from China, building on earlier research with Vietnamese students, showing the poor employment outcomes for many students who studied in Australia.

Collectively the sector has a lot to think about as it pursues a more diverse, post-COVID, future.

 Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector