According to speakers at a recent Australian Intercultural Society event, the benefits of hosting international students in Australia must go beyond economic benefits, and cultural and workforce contributions must be more widely recognized.
Helen Forbes-Mewett, research leader of Identity and Belonging at Monash University’s Migration and Inclusion Centre, explained, “There are so many other elements that sit alongside the economic one.” “We can’t deny the economic aspect; it’s critical, but so are all the other factors.”
Cultural perspectives and the development of international connections are also advantages, she claims. “There is a real imbalance in the sector’s appreciation beyond its economic value that we need to address,” Belle Lim, national president of the Council of International Students Australia, said. She went on to say that “significant cultural contributions” are not often discussed or appreciated enough, and that economic benefits are frequently misunderstood as only rewarding universities or the education sector. “Apart from international education, I can’t think of a way or a channel that can bring in such a large number of high-skilled workers and individuals to drive productivity growth in Australia,” she added.
International education engages five times as many people as coal mining, but you don’t see politicians or members of the community defending a sector that receives massive subsidies.
Wesa Chau, CEO of Cultural Intelligence and founder of Resilience Against Racism, agreed, “We need to see students as much more than just an economic contribution.” According to Forbes-Mewett, Australia’s attitude toward international students has dramatically shifted in the decades since students first landed under the Colombo plan for cultural and diplomatic reasons. The pandemic has served as a wake-up call that the role of international education needs to be reconsidered, according to Lim.
Education and training of future workforce leaders for Australia and the rest of the world plays a critical role. In this regard, Australia plays a critical role in the Asia Pacific region’s leadership. There are still doubts about how quickly the Australian economy will recover following the pandemic. “I believe Australia’s reputation has suffered a significant blow. “I know there are a lot of students starting university around this time who were planning to come to Australia, but Australia is no longer an option for them,” Lim explained.
Students have already left Australia for countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada, which have been far more welcoming to international students than Australia. Returning international students to Australia will not be a V-shape recovery; it will take a long time.
According to surveys, agents have “all but written off” travel to Australia and New Zealand in 2021, with students opting for the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.