Needed: more new students from original international markets

While the China boom in international enrolments rolls-on experts point to problems in other country markets, problems that will pick up prominence when the Chinese student flow slows. There is, veteran policy analyst Frank Larkins warns, already an issue as student demand from Australia’s neighbours declines.

In a new paper for the L H Martin Institute, Professor Larkins expands on a previous project that looked at our out of synch sources of international students. He now provides comprehensive statistics on changing demand this century and warns that eight of the top 20 countries sending students to Australia in 2017 accounted for a lower proportion of the internationals-total than they did in 2002.

Four of them, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore had fewer students travelling to Australia last year than they did 15 years back.

This may be more to do with improving education at home than anything wrong with the Australian product, but it still creates two issues for Australia to address.

“The narrowing of the demographic diversity in Australian classrooms impacts on the richness of the educational experiences of all students. Australia should be promoting stronger educational engagements with our near regional neighbours, Professor Larkins warns.

And three of them are nations with which we need good relationships, to counter the weight of China, in more contexts than education.

“Students educated in Australia do provide an important bridge back to their home nationality,” Professor Larkins writes, suggesting the Commonwealth should consider re-starting the original Colombo Plan and “sponsoring students from underrepresented strategically important countries in the region.”


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