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Ahead Of The Australian Elections, Experts Suggest To Weigh In On International Education

Being one of the world’s premier international education hotspots, stakeholders are keeping a close eye on Australia’s higher education policies as the country heads to the polls this month.

Consultancy in international education The Lygon Group has teamed with The Australian Technology Network of Universities to provide critical policy insights ahead of the federal election on May 21. As part of the Election Watch Project with the ATN Network of major technology universities in Australia, the Lygon Group will track policy questions on overseas education.

As part of this effort, The Lygon Group is monitoring online conversations between Australian voters and overseas students regarding the election through its unique international student social listening platform, The Social Source.

“The initiative looks at subjects of relevance to voters: their thoughts, arguments, and current perspectives on the major parties’ weekly focuses.” “We also applied an international education lens to it, revealing commonalities in concerns such as rental prices/accommodation, inflation, and cost of living that affect international students,” said Varsha Devi Balakrishnan, an education analyst at The Lygon Group, to The PIE.

“It will be interesting to examine how these concerns affect international students’ experiences and impressions of Australia.” “We know that international students in all of the top locations are currently suffering the comparable cost of living difficulties,” she emphasised.

As the Australian election approaches, stakeholders in the sector are hopeful that student views will play an important role in the political debate and subsequently convert into decisive policymaking once the government is elected. Independent Higher Education Australia, the sector’s main group for independent institutions, has produced a Federal Election Platform calling on the next government to enact structural reform of tertiary education in the country.

“The federal election on May 21 provides an opportunity for independent higher education providers to advance key reforms to re-energize Australian higher education, address skills shortages, and drive economic growth during the next term of the Australian government,” said Peter Hendy, IHEA’s new CEO.

“IHEA proposes that the next Australian government collaborate with all stakeholders in the higher education sector to develop an agreed-upon national structural reform strategy to drive efficiencies, address economic demands, and realise the sector’s enormous scientific, societal, and commercial potential.”

“The 2022 IHEA Federal Election Platform offers a set of low-cost, high-benefit sector reforms to help students thrive and chart the way for the future economy,” Hendy said.

The IHEA Federal Election Platform, for example, recommends the “creation of an International Education Ministerial Council” to “push a new industry strategy over the following three years.” It also suggests “increased paths to Permanent Residency for graduates in priority disciplines” in areas where long-term skill shortages are predicted, in order to “promote innovation” and “meet industry demands,” as well as to boost Australia’s “market competitiveness” in international education.

Furthermore, as the country approaches its federal election, the Group of Eight has advocated for a greater focus on the country’s university environment.

“It is our universities that will deliver the quality and quantum required for a more sovereign nation of doctors, engineers, lawyers, surveyors, paramedics, dentists, or graduates in AI, Space, quantum computing, and critically in all areas of national security and defence, including cyber security,” Group of Eight CEO Vicky Thomson said.

“It takes years to educate these people, and doing it correctly isn’t cheap,” she concluded.

“When universities seek for more education funding, we are asking for an investment in the future well-being of our families and our nation.” Never before in this post-Covid recovery era, with geopolitical harm on our screens 24 hours a day, has the value of our universities been so clear and so urgent.

“The 2022 federal election presents an opportunity for elected officials to put universities at the forefront of government strategy in order to confront the clear difficulties that lie ahead,” Thomson said.

Thomson urged the future government to focus on “investment in” and “translation and commercialization” of university research, as well as securing a qualified workforce over the next four years and in the long term, to strengthen and enhance Australia’s “sovereign capability” in research. Failure to do so might cause Australia to fall behind its peers across the world, she said.

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