Australia Education International (AEI) – which comes under the purview of the Australian Department of Education – releases a research report every few years. In its recent report, it identified six core reasons that international students seek to fulfil during the course of their study. These are “freedom; challenge; status; control; security; and affiliation”. (Basu et. al, 2007, p.23) The report went on to identify those needs which were associated with Australia and recommended that “Australia seek to adopt a brand positioning that covers the needs of freedom, challenge and status with slight variations by country and sector.” (Basu et. al, 2007, p.23) As a result, AEI adopted the slogan: ‘Explore the possibilities. Your future. Your world. Challenge yourself. Study in Australia.’ The new brand values portray Australia
“as a place that is refreshingly free of boundaries, inhibitions and constraints, and where ‘having a go’ is still possible. It is a place where blue sky thinking is the rule, not the exception. A place in which one cannot help but be irreverent, to approach things from a different angle and see life ‘in a different light’. It promotes the Australian values of irreverence, optimism, mateship, integrity, and originality, and shows how we ‘live differently’ in Australia”. (Basu et. al, 2007, p.23)
While there are so many favourable factors for studying in Australia, some discontentment has arisen in recent years. There is a brewing conflict between academic institutions and policymakers on the issue of English language proficiency of enrolees. It has come to light in recent years that nearly one third of international student graduates gaining permanent residency in Australia do not possess the minimum language skill requirements. In the standard International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exams they fall short of achieving band 6 scores that are deemed necessary for university admission. This relative lack of stringency in English proficiency requirements make Australia a destination of choice, especially for students from countries that are not exposed to English. This explains why Chinese and Korean students form a big contingency in Australian universities. But of late, since the government is heeding to the concerns of potential employers and has raised the “immigration requirements for permanent residency to favour IELTS band 7 and above applicants. This will put international student graduates under greater pressure to demonstrate competency if they wish to remain in Australia at the end of their degree.” (Stappenbelt & Barrett-Lennard, 2008, p.116) This qualification might change the perceived attractiveness of Australia as a destination for study and employment among aspiring foreign students in the future.
In sum, the pros outweigh the cons in evaluating Australia’s attractiveness as an overseas higher studies location. The most compelling reasons include cost-savings (when compared to studying in the USA or UK), culturally diverse academic environment, greater probability for employment after graduation, precedent of successful immigrant integration into society (especially from South and South-East Asia), official government programs (manifest as laws and regulations) for supporting international students, etc. But the review has also shown that issues of racism linger on in Australian society. The growingly more stringent admission requirements (especially with respect to English language proficiency) are also discouraging international student enrolment. But in the final analysis, the favourable reasons outnumber and outweigh the drawbacks. Australia is thus a serious contender in the overseas education market.
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Journal Explores Experiences of International Students. (2010, November/December). International Educator, 19(6), 11.
Martinez, L. (2011, November 24). The Study Abroad Advantage: With International Exposure, Students Can Broaden Horizons, Boost Job Prospects. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 28(21), 25.
Ramia, G., Marginson, S., & Sawir, E. (2013). The Regulation of International Student Welfare in Australia. Journal of Australian Political Economy, (71), 106+.
Stappenbelt, B., & Barrett-Lennard, S. (2008). Teaching Smarter to Improve the English Communication Proficiency of International Engineering Students-Collaborations between Content and Language Specialists at the University of Western Australia.Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, 14(2), 115+.
Trevelyan, J. P., & Tilli, S. (2010). Labour Force Outcomes for Engineering Graduates in Australia. Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, 16(2), 101+.