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Australian universities challenged to grow with Asia

Written by James Nuhn

Australian sandstone universities such as The University of Queensland are expected to grow with fast rising Asia.

Since 2009 the number of international students choosing to come to Australia has been steadily decreasing. In 2013 a 23 per cent reduction in international students is expected from the high in 2009 before growth is expected again according to new modelling by the International Education Association of Australia.

The decrease in international student numbers since 2009 has been due to a range of factors such as the “racist image” of Australia; the increasing value of the Australian dollar; and according to a recent article by Sean Gallagher of the United States Studies Centre and Geoffrey Garrett of The University of Sydney Business School, the appearance of foreign universities into the market for international students.

The pair further noted that to avoid this downward spiral Australia has already begun taking steps to encourage international students to study here by streamlining student visa applications and making the process of coming to Australia more competitive as recommended in the Knight Review, which for now appears to be working.

In Canada, the development of universities in fast rising Asian countries has been considered a risk to their tertiary education system which is reliant like Australia on international student funding, according to the University of British Columbia’s Vice President John Hepburn, who said:

“All these [Asian] universities overseas are going to start poaching our top talent. They come and they offer to double [a professor’s] salary and provide them with literally millions of dollars in infrastructure and research funding – it’s tough to say no to that.”

However, Professor of Higher Education at The University of Melbourne Simon Marginson believes that this scenario is unlikely to be a large problem in the future for Australia because “Australian universities provide more attractive working environments and remuneration than universities in China, India and Malaysia.”

According to Australian researchers such as Tony Sheil, deputy director of research policy at Griffith University, Australia is set to benefit from the development of Asian universities as “…any of our research that is of interest to Asian colleagues will be more highly cited and this will result in solid reputation benefits for our universities.”

This collaborative benefit has been reflected in the recently released Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2012-13, which placed six Australian universities in the top 100, and awarded significantly higher places to several of them such as The University of Queensland, which has increased by 16 places in the past two years.

In a recent interview, China’s Ambassador to Australia Chen Yuming said Australia has been given “a unique and special advantage to seize the opportunities of the Asian Century and further grow the cultural exchanges” as a result of our inclusion in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although there are many challenges ahead and new competitors have arisen in the market for international students, Australian universities do appear to be well positioned to ride with the quick growth of Asia if we can continue to strengthen our national brand.

 

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