Claire Field warns: the government will kill international education for a decade

The treatment of international students is wrong


COVID-19 is an enormous health and economic challenge and the Australian Government is to be commended for many of the actions it has taken in response to the crisis.

But it is wrong in its treatment of international students.

Many in the international education sector have tallied the economic damage arising from COVID-19.

But as a former peak body CEO who had a leadership role following Australia’s last international student crisis – it is also the future of the sector that worries me.

The decision to withhold financial support from international students will all but kill off international education in Australia – for at least a decade and probably longer.  Consider for yourself – if it were your son or daughter who you were sending away to improve their future life chances where would you choose to send them?

To Australia – a country which only welcomes them in the good times?

Or to somewhere like Canada where their Emergency Response Benefit is open to international students, or the UK where their Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open to all workers?

This phrase in the minister’s media release stands out “… Australians and permanent residents must be the Government’s number one focus.”

Given Australia’s “focus” we should not be surprised, when the crisis passes, that prospective students and their parents will identify other countries as the “focus” for their education.

Australia has the privilege of educating some of the best and brightest minds in our region. We began our international education offerings through the Colombo Plan – scholarships to educate students from developing countries.

We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Yet when our neighbours and their children need our temporary help – our priority is ourselves. We should hang our heads in shame.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education.