International Education in Australia (more valuable than tourism)

November 25, 2008

This post continues the series on international students with an investigation into Australia. I lay out the current situation in terms of enrollment and dollars. Then, I report on the government’s attempts to crack down on unscrupulous schools. This is followed by the results of a study on the academic strength of international students at major research universities.

How many? How much?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, international students brought AUD 13.7 billion (USD 8.9 billion)—outstripping tourism by a full AUD $1.7 billion. This huge contribution comes mostly from higher education (63%), but vocational schools (18%) are experiencing huge growth. The fees paid by international students make up, on average, 15% of college budgets.

One reason that has been cited for this extraordinary growth is the Australian dollar. The AUD has fallen agains the USD, making study in Australia more affordable than study in the U.S. In addition, the Indian Rupee has fallen sharply against the USD, but has risen against the AUD, making Australia particularly attractive to Indian students.

Some Schools Taking Advantage of Students
The demand among international students for vocational education has skyrocketed, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of trade colleges. In addition to reputable schools helping educate students, there is a growing number of institutions who, according to The Age, engage in cash-for-certificate schemes. In October, the Australian government closed one such college and put another 40 on suspension. The sheer number of institutions, however, make enforcing existing rules difficult. The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, for example, admits the existence of “dodgy providers” and cites lack of staff and resources as a reason more are not sanctioned. Finally, at the end of October, the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, announced his intention to toughen rules on student agencies that are also exploiting students with visa promises and descriptions of Australia that are simply untrue.

Major Universities Defend Themselves
The abuse of the Australian system by some institutions and college dependence on their fees have made all international students an easy target for criticism. To counter the claim that international students are recruited only as sources of money, a group of major research universities conducted a study on the academic performance of their international students.

The results show that international students at these universities are completing their coursework with the same degree of success as native Australians. These are powerful data, because they show that the most prestigous Australian universities are keeping their standards high and are recruiting based on academic merit, not financial clout.
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International Students: Canadian Trends

November 24, 2008

Canada does not attract as many international students as the U.S., U.K., or Australia, but they are working to change that. This post reports on the Canadian government’s efforts to recruit more students and explores recent problems with student visa fraud.

Imagine Canada
In September, the Canadian government announced that international atudents will be able to apply for work permits and remina in the country for up to 3 years after graduation. This would encourage graduates to use their education in Canada and would pave the way for their eventual naturalization.

In October, provincial education ministers met in Fredricton, New Brunswick, and announced a countrywide brand to recruit international students: “Imagine Education in Canada.” They plan to market Canada as an open, welcoming society and its colleges as world-class institutions of higher learning.

Visa Fraud
Unfortunately, Canada lacks the infrastructure to enforce visa laws. According to an internal report by the Canada Border Services Agency (obtained by the Vancouver Sun), the CBSA is only able to investigate 5% of alleged visa fraud. This enforcement gap means that people can obtain a student visa, arrive in the country legally, and then enter the workforce–circumventing the more rigorous immigrant visa process. I’m sure that many readers based in the U.S. can relate to my experience that some students come to the States and do the same thing. If this can be accomplished in a country with a well-funded enformcement apparatus, it must be that much easier in Canada.

Where is this Going?
If the Canadian government takes the initiative to market the colleges and universities of the whole country, this will undoubtedly help them to recruit more of the best and brightest students in the owlrd. Their 3-year work permit is like none I’ve heard of elsewhere and will also go a long way toward encouraging more students to choose Canadian colleges.

That being said, if Canada develops a reputation as an easy-visa country, this will attract a different applicant pool altogether. In that case, top-tier colleges run the risk of wasting valuable recruiting resources and doing serious damage to a carefully crafted national brand.
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