Claire Field’s reasons to be cheerful on international students  


If COVID-19 has taught us anything it might be to remind us that predictions are incredibly hard to get right in unusual circumstances and that we need a wide range of data to take good decisions

I say that because of my optimism about the rebound of Australia’s international education sector – with the obvious caveat for Western Australia.

My positivity has me out-of-step with some others in the sector who are predicting slow, difficult times ahead. It is also a shift from my concerns last year when I worried that the closed international border and some of the public comments aimed at international students would have a long-lasting impact.

In fact, education providers have overwhelmingly offered their students the support they needed with their studies – both on, or off-shore.

It has not been perfect but in the middle of a once-in-a-century global pandemic – staff across many of our institutions have done exceptional work in supporting their students.

And now our competitors are simultaneously welcoming the fact we are re-opening but also (sensibly) expressing concerns about Australia’s reputation for being aggressive in our international education recruitment. James Pitman, Study Group’s UK/Europe Managing Director recalled recently, as I do first-hand, how bad Australia’s last student crisis was and how quickly we rebounded (when visa and policy settings were not as favourable to the sector).

One of the challenges institutions face as they look to “aggressively” rebound – is how to do so while at the same time diversifying their student cohort. Especially after the very welcome (but not entirely surprising) news that Chinese students remain favourably disposed to Australia.

Diversification was a topic I discussed with Neil Pearson at IDP recently. It is clear that as EdTech continues to enhance international student recruitment, it can also play a part in helping institutions with their student mix.

And a hat tip to Austrade for the upcoming Global Agent Week which will provide agents with all the facts on border re-openings, quarantine requirements, etc in each jurisdiction.

Claire Field is the host of the What now? What next? podcast. She was joined by Neil Pearson from IDP on the latest episode.