International students and the law of unintended consequences

29 Sep 2011

UNIVERSITIES are jubilant about the federal government’s response to the Knight Review of the student visa program. The Group of Eight says the planned changes will enable Australian universities “to compete more effectively in the global market” by increasing “Australia’s attractiveness as a study destination.” Universities Australia headlined its press release “Knight Review a Boon to Higher Education.”

Behind the scenes, university finance officers will be breathing deep sighs of relief. Labor’s previous changes to international education had significantly reduced the income stream from international enrolments; now, the flow of dollars is expected to pick up again. (Providers of vocational education and training are far less excited because the changes do little to bolster their prospects of attracting new students. TAFE Directors Australia detected confirmation of an “inherent bias towards universities in international education.”)

These measures might well help cash-strapped universities, but they have some worrying characteristics in common with the international education policies of the Howard government…

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