Claire Field reports risk and response in the international ed industry


VCs and TEQSA’s Coaldrake on what has been and can be done

International education and risk were not just topics of interest at the recent CEDA Vice-Chancellor’s lunch in Melbourne, they were also a key focus for TEQSA Chief Commissioner, Peter Coaldrake, in his remarks to the Needed Now conference.

At the vice chancellor’s lunch, Iain Martin pointed out that his Deakin University has been saving a portion of their international student revenues for many years (a decision taken “two VCs ago”) as an explicit risk mitigation strategy.

Pascale Quester from Swinburne University noted that some universities were more exposed than others to the international student downturn and that Swinburne was de-risking by “monetising assets” and “monetising research”.

In his conference reflections, Coaldrake was prompted to reflect on how, during his tenure, QUT had deliberately taken a risk averse approach by limiting international student numbers and recruiting from multiple markets.

While he went out of his way to say he did not judge other universities for “loading up” on international students, Coaldrake does expect institutions to have sophisticated risk management systems in place.

He also observed that traditional understandings of risk were being “confounded” at present, whereby smaller institutions with less exposure to international students might currently be lower risk than much larger institutions, especially those with a “massive capital programme and pressures on research.”

For senior figures expecting TEQSA to “tickle their tummies” (another Coaldrake observation) it could be a challenging period.

It could also be challenging for non-university higher education providers, but for the opposite reason. Coaldrake acknowledged some NUHEPs see TEQSA as heavy-handed but disagreed with this characterisation.

TEQSA is moving to a new fee schedule where renewal of registration fees for NUHEPs will increase from a flat $20,000 fee to between $38,500 and $163,900, depending on how complex TEQSA thinks the re-registration audit will be (which in turn relates to their estimates of the provider’s level of risk).

it’s going to be crucial that TEQSA strikes the right balance between being heavy handed and ‘tummy tickling’.

 Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector