The vice-chancellor of Sydney University, Michael Spence has said Australia risks squandering its $15.5 billion higher education export industry within 10 years, unless the Federal Government takes urgent action .
He warned that continuing reports of racist violence, questionable private colleges providing dubious diplomas and visa abuses were damaging the good reputation of Australia’s education industry.
He did not mention, but he should, the woeful standards of some of the univeversities where the professors and lecturers are more concerned with enhancing their reputations or earning extra fees then teaching the students. The writer has direct experience of both Australian and British universities and there is a major, major difference. A simple test is to go to any Australian university and find the car park reserved for the professors. On any Friday it will be almost totally empty.
Many academics in Australia find students and unwanted and unwonted intrusion into their serious academic work which is writing for publication. Publish or perish.
Dr Spence said new and emerging global competitors posed a greater and longer-term threat. China, the main source of our international students, would increasingly educate its young people at home and look to England, Canada and the United States.
At Sydney University more than 40 percent of international students are Chinese. The big universities such as Sydney, NSW, Melbourne, Monash and Macquarie each have more than 10,000 international students on campus, paying on average between $20,000 and $30,000 a year.
This guarantees $200 million to $300 million a year for each university. In some cases this is over 20%of total revenue.
Many universities use this money to cross-subsidise other services like less popular degree programs, PhD scholarships and research.
Dr Spence said, "We have a reputation for a high-quality education in a safe environment. We need to ensure our education provision remains high quality and Australia remains a safe and attractive destination for international students."
The Sydney Morning Herald reported the education counsellor at the Australian embassy in Beijing, Iain Watt, as saying the rapid growth in the size of China’s university sector was not a threat to the Australian overseas student export market at present. Which sounds probable. He added, "However if the value and security are eroding… and if we do not make sure that the quality of education is maintained or even improved, then being a nice place to live is not much of a foundation for the future of our education industry." Damn good. And damn right too.
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