Needed from National Cabinet: a single positive message for international students


Phil Honeywood from the International Education Association of Australia warns the meeting of the PM, premiers and chief ministers on Friday is the one forum that can speak for the country

He’s right. Until now, the commonwealth and states have stuck to their own very different song sheets which has accomplished confusion in the industry and among students studying abroad who wonder when, or if, they will be allowed into Australia.

A coordinated message from all governments would be a powerful reassurance that they are not lost in the system or just forgotten.

That many fear they are should not come as a surprise. With the exception of the Darwin pilot, Australia appears alone among the Anglosphere education providers in not announcing a scaled return. As CMM reported Monday, Indian students are now looking to Canada, which will welcome them, over Australia, which won’t, at least not in-person.

Mr Honeywood says this week’s executive meeting of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India heard first-hand evidence of Indian students changing their preferences from Australia to other countries, including Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

Not that open-borders are all the answer. UK’s Channel 4 provides an expose of international student life in the depth of winter, reporting a foodbank in east London catering for 1700 internationals a week.

What Australia’s international education industry needs on Friday is for national cabinet to set an indicative date when students will be allowed into the country.

This should not be that hard.  if Tennis Australia can pull off quarantining for the Australian Open and Rugby Australia can invite the British and Irish Lions to tour, without attracting much hostile attention, there is surely room for Australian governments to agree to a safe, scaled return of international students to Australia.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent