Monday, 19 December 2011

Humanities courses lead to career success!

My first degree is in English and History from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. My parents, who are nor highly educated, never asked me a single on question on my career prospect from Arts degree. Unlike most of my friends whom parents are business people, doctor or engineer, they were expected by their parents to follow the traditional career path. I am glad my parent let me study arts and humanities.

A piece from Times Higher Education by Jack Grove confirms my belief that Arts is a good degree!

Sixty per cent of leading public figures in the UK have humanities, social science or arts degrees, a new study has found.

A report commissioned by the New College of the Humanities (NCH) found the subjects had been studied by the majority of those “at the top of their professions” – such as CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, bosses of top creative and financial companies, vice-chancellors of Russell Group universities and MPs.

Starting in September 2012, the privately-owned for-profit NCH will charge £18,000 a year for degrees in five subject areas: law, economics, history, English literature and philosophy.

Based in Bloomsbury, the college will be headed by A.C. Grayling, who year resigned from his post as professor of philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London earlier this year.

Dr Grayling said: “For service economies in the developed world, a broad educational background is essential.

“Much of the talent that goes into law, journalism, the civil service, politics, financial services, the creative industries, publishing, education, and much besides, is drawn from people who have studied the humanities.

“Our society and economy needs broadly educated people, who have gained a wider view of the world and human affairs – of how to think about them, understand them, and apply the lessons thus learned.”

But he added: “Our fear is that humanities provision is being diminished.

“It is wrong to think that humanities matter less, or offer fewer career opportunities than science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Many bright young people could benefit enormously from them.”

From 2012, the publicly-funded teaching grant for arts, social sciences and humanities subjects will be scrapped, with the annual costs of up to £9,000 repaid by graduates.

A reduced teaching grant will be available only for clinical subjects and some science,
technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The NCH report found 65 per cent of MPs studied an arts, humanities or social sciences
discipline, compared with just over 10 per cent who studied STEM disciplines.

But only around 30 per cent of vice-chancellors of Russell Group universities came from an arts, humanities or social sciences background, compared to 65 per cent who had studied STEM subjects.

the author can be contacted at:

Monday, 12 December 2011

Prof. Paul Greenfield will step down from his role as chair of the Group of Eight

The Group of Eight announced the change early Friday evening, shortly
after Greenfield told UQ staff and alumni that he would be leaving
his position on December 16 instead of mid-next year.

"The Group of Eight secretariat is saddened by the news that
Professor Paul Greenfield is stepping down as Vice-Chancellor of The
University of Queensland and Go8 Chair," said a spokesman in a

"He has been a skilful and trusted leader of the Go8. The University
of Queensland has reached new heights through his direction and
drive. Those of us who have known him over many years have nothing
but admiration for his intellectual power, integrity and grace."

Greenfield is leaving following revelations an irregularity
surrounding the admission of a close relative into a medical degree.
It is believed the relative did not achieve the required
Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admissions Test score but
was allowed into the program anyway. Greenfield had already planned
to retire from the university in the middle of next year.

"In recent weeks, it has become increasingly difficult for me to
serve as vice-chancellor in the way this organisation and its
partners deserve. In addition, the ongoing pressure on my family and
the University is taking a toll, the level of which I am not prepared
to accept. As a consequence, I have decided to step down as
vice-chancellor of UQ from December 16, 2011, and depart the
university on January 13, 2012. This decision is mine, and has been
accepted by Senate," he wrote.

"Between now and January, I will work to ensure a smooth transition
to Professor Debbie Terry who will act in the VC role until a new
appointment is confirmed."

Terry, in her own letter, paid tribute to Greenfield and outgoing
senior deputy vice-chancellor Professor Michael Keniger, who is also
leaving the university on December 16.

"Under their leadership over the past four years, the university has
gone from strength to strength, performing exceptionally well in all
areas. I know that you will all join me in thanking Paul and Michael
for their many contributions and wishing them all the very best for
the future."

Friday, 9 December 2011

The work of RMIT and multinational corporation in promoting international education

In Laos where the majority of citizens are poor, obtaining an overseas education qualification and experiences seem to be just a dream. Part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) by a multinational corporation called MMG seems to be an interesting initiative. I have received this news from my colleagues from RMIT and need to share it with the reader of my blog. Why? Simply because the project show case a strong link of industry and an international education provider.

Base metals mining company MMG is pleased to announce the graduation of 37 Lao community members in Certificate III qualifications from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).

The community members are part of a program established by MMG and RMIT to provide skills to community members living around the Sepon copper and gold mine in the Savannakhet Province, Laos.

The program aims to increase the skill level of local community members and their capacity to undertake skilled jobs on site. It is part of MMG’s ongoing commitment to the sustainable development of the mine’s local community.

The graduates received the qualification in one of seven trades - carpentry, fabrication, refrigeration, mechanics, electrics, automotive or instrumentation – following four years of studies and at least one year of on-the-job training at the Sepon mine. The qualification is equivalent to that undertaken by apprentices in Australia.

The study component of the program included an annual 28-day intensive training course, run by RMIT trainers at the purpose-built Trades Training Workshop facility on site. The on-the-job training element involved working alongside, and being mentored by, maintenance supervisors and tradespersons. Successful graduates have all secured employment at the mine.

BounGneun Phonenavongdeuane, from Vilabouly District, gained her certificate in refrigeration and will work with the mine’s maintenance department. She said that graduating with a high qualification was very important for her.

“It will bring many changes for my future, especially related to my performance in the job I do,” she said.

Fellow graduate Viengkham Maphangvong, also from Vilabouly District, trained as a carpenter.

“I was very proud to be one of the local community members selected to join this high-standard study program. I would like to thank the company for providing an excellent training scheme for local people,” he said.

The achievements of the apprentices were recognised at a graduation ceremony that took place at the mine on 24 November. It was attended by family members of the graduates as well as local officials, company employees and representatives from RMIT.

The partnership between the Sepon mine and RMIT has been in place since 2006, with the first 16 apprentices and employees graduating last year.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Chinese University in Laos

I am currently in Vientiane, Laos, for my research project on poverty eradication and Multinational corporations. While I'm here one thing that comes across my interest is story about the establishment of a Chinese University in Laos.

Soochow University, in Jiangsu Province, is expected to open an affiliate in Laos in 2012, according to People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party.

Clearly,Soochow will be the first foreign education institution to receive approval from the Laotian government to offer undergraduate and graduate programs. The university plans to provide courses for about 5,000 students in Laos, a country of more than six million where only 13 percent of the undergraduate-age population is enrolled in higher education, according to 2008 Unesco statistics.

A university official quoted in the report said Soochow would offer 12 majors, including Chinese language and literature, economy and trade, and engineering. Soochow University, which has about 50,000 students in China, expects the Laos campus to begin enrolling students next year, the report said.

While the university will initially send Chinese academics to the Laos campus, it plans to gradually employ more local teachers. The campus is estimated to cost $25 million.

China's collaboration with Laos in the form of education development is significant as Laos certainly push education in the forefront of national long-term development. As an educator, I really appreciate this collaboration and would love to witness the long and short-term imoacts of such collaboration.

Viva Global education! สะบายดี from Laos!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

International Education Market 'Strangled'?

PREMIER Ted Baillieu has accused the federal government of ''effectively strangling'' the international student market, and will join forces with New South Wales to push for wider changes to visa restrictions.
Only weeks after Canberra announced it would fast-track student visas and give foreign students the right to two years of post-study work - provided they graduate with a university degree - Victoria has branded the move a ''knee-jerk reaction'' that will threaten the state's $5.8 billion international education industry.
Mr Baillieu and his NSW counterpart, Barry O'Farrell, share concerns that the reforms focus too much on universities and not enough on the vocational education sector, where falling enrolments are the most severe.

he Liberal premiers are expected to use the next Council of Australian Governments meeting to challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard to further ease visa restrictions, with Victoria arguing the changes should be based on the type of qualification students get, not just that it comes from a university.
''The Victorian government is concerned that the Commonwealth have effectively strangled the international education market with a knee-jerk reaction that is threatening a $5.8 billion industry in Victoria,'' Mr Baillieu's spokeswoman told The Sunday Age.
''Victoria is developing a number of initiatives to grow our international student market, particularly from key countries such as China and India. However, the Commonwealth's actions have been inadequate and are threatening this important economic sector.''
Under the Commonwealth's changes, adopted from the Knight review into student visas, foreign students who undertake a university bachelor degree will have access to a streamlined visa system and the right to two years' work after graduating, without a restriction on the type of job.
They also will no longer have to prove they have more than $75,000 in their bank account, bringing Australia's system into line with other countries such as the US, where students simply declare they have the means to support themselves.
However, vocational training colleges will have to wait on a second review, due next year, before they see major changes to processing arrangements for their own international students.
Figures from the Immigration Department show offshore grants (visa approvals) for the vocational education and training sector fell by 44.6 per cent between June 2009-10 and June 2010-11 - including a 64 per cent decline from China, and a 90.1 per cent fall from India. University offshore grants fell by 18.3 per cent over the same period.
While universities have welcomed the changes adopted from the Knight review, others in the sector share the state government's concerns. In a letter to the federal government, Holmes Institute director Stephen Nagle said it was grossly unfair the changes did not apply to government-recognised ''university-equivalent'' providers such as his.
He said that without a level playing field, ''Holmes will have suffered irreparable reputational damage and will have lost considerable recognition in the sector'' by the middle of next year.
''Holmes should be entitled to compete equally with Australian universities in the international education sector,'' he wrote.
The fall in foreign student numbers has been blamed on factors including tougher visa rules, a higher dollar, and violent attacks, mostly against Indian students, a few years ago.


Monday, 17 October 2011

International student 'blackmailed' by college

TWO directors of a controversy-plagued Victorian private college for international students allegedly blackmailed an Indian student who complained about the college's standards.
The revelations raise questions about the Baillieu government's vow to clean up the industry, with at least one of the men facing criminal charges, Kanwal Singh, still working at and managing the South Pacific Institute in Melbourne's CBD.

The Indian-born Kanwal Singh, his fellow South Pacific Institute director Gurvinder Singh, who is also an Indian national and a third man, Ayush Gupta, were recently charged by the Victoria Police with two counts of making an unwarranted demand on a person with menace.

The charges relate to allegations that the trio threatened a student to get him to retract complaints he had made in 2009 about the South Pacific Institute.

The student had made complaints about the standard of education at the college and allegations that school staff were taking cash from students to upgrade marks and employing unqualified teachers.

After calling the institute yesterday and asking to speak to the manager, The Age was put onto Kanwal Singh.

When asked about whether it was appropriate he remained at the college while facing criminal charges, he told The Age: ''I don't want to comment on anything, mate. I have to check with my lawyer.''

Victorian education authorities have known about allegations of misconduct involving the South Pacific Institute since at least 2009, when The Age first reported them. The institute has denied claims of impropriety.

After the 2009 reports, the then Brumby government ordered education regulators to audit the institute and more than a dozen other colleges that were considered high risk. After the audits, several colleges closed down, but the South Pacific College remained open.

The 2009 revelations also led to the introduction by federal and state authorities of tougher regulations that authorities hoped would help clean up the industry.
Labor MP Luke Donnellan, who has previously called for Victorian authorities to better support overseas students, said the Baillieu government should ensure college managers accused of criminal offences were suspended until their court matters were resolved.

''It seems strange that a government that was very quick in opposition to condemn Labor over its handling of issues affecting overseas students is allowing a manager of an international college to remain in his post while facing criminal charges,'' he said.

''This does enormous damage to our international reputation and Mr Baillieu must do more to ensure Victoria is a welcoming and safe environment for overseas students.''
The international student industry was a $17 billion industry nationally and brought $4 billion every year into Victoria, but has been hit in recent years by the rising dollar, poor regulation of providers, attacks on Indian students in Victoria and Commonwealth changes to visa and residency conditions.

Kanwal Singh, Gurvinder Singh and Ayush Gupta are listed to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Read more:

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Why do we care about Times Higher Education World University Rankings?

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University has recently announced the World’s top 400 Universities. American Ivy leagues and traditional British Universities are among the top 10, as one can predict. The World’s top University for 2011-12 is California Institute of Technology, followed by Harvard, Stanford, Oxford and Princeton Universities.

Universities from Asia have improved their performances from the previous rankings. Nine Universities from Asia, mainly from Japan, Korea and China, are listed in the World’s top 100 Universities. They include University of Tokyo (30), University of Hong Kong (34), National University of Singapore (40), Peking University (49), Kyoto University (52), Pohang University of Science and Technology (53), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (62), Tsinghua University (71), and Korea advanced Institute of Science and Technology (94). Only one University from South East Asia, National University of Singapore (40), has been placed among top 100 Universities.

Compared to most OECD countries, Australia has been performing very well in the ranking system. According to the 2011-12 THE, the University of Melbourne (37), Australian National University (38), the University of Sydney (58), and the University of Queensland (74) have progressed to the World’s top 100 Universities. Some of our non-traditional Universities, such as Charles Darwin University, Flinders University or Swinburne University of Technology, have made it to top 400.

What are the implications of the THE University rankings to Australia? We can interpret the consequences of the THE rankings in our higher education system in various facets. We understand from THE, that they rank world Universities by investigating the learning environment (30%), volume, income and reputation (30%), research influence (30%), innovation (2.5%) and staff, student and research (7.5%). In reality, all Universities are created in different socio-political and academic contexts. One of the classic arguments is the size of economy and its relationship with higher education system. For instance, THE looks at public and industry research income. However, indicators of public and industry research income as proportions of total research income are not sufficiently appreciative of how the size of one's national economy influences results. In this regard, they tend to advantage Western economic models and their higher education systems, and concurrently disadvantage more nations and developmentally oriented models.

Australian Universities may perform well, due to a number of reasons. One is the push from the federal Government on research performance. In the last 24 months, Australian academics were bombarded by the idea of the excellence in Research for Australia initiative (ERA), which adopted a combination of indicators and expert review by committees. In February 2011, an analysis of the government's ERA report (conducted by The Australian newspaper) found that only 12 universities were performing research at or above international standard, with the top four performing at a rate that could be considered well above international standard. Academics are trained to aim for better research performance and it has become culture in (almost) all Australian Universities.

Ranking of Journal and publications, hence, were created to make sure that key research outputs were published in the top (A* or A) journals in each discipline. Resources were spent to make sure that your research findings are disseminated in the top rank outlets. For some academics, research has become their top priority because it can ensure the quality of their scholarships. Questions such as “how do you plan to publish in Nature?” or “Have you published in Journal of Marketing?” have become common issue for discussion among Australian academics. From 2008-2011, all academic conferences I have attended (mostly are in business and management discipline) includes, at least, one session on meeting with the editorial members of Journal of XYZ.

Some academics argue that, because of the strong demand for research and publication, other forms of academic contributions, such as teaching or community services, may have been taken for granted. The university has always been an intellectual community and a forum for discussion and debate. Within the university there are many reservoirs of knowledge to which society at large can have recourse; but it has also been a centre for individuals who have changed society’s perceptions. Not all of its goals are known in advance, and the ongoing ferment is one of its essential characteristic. Clearly, the ranking may not be able to capture some of these aspects.

When we explore the THE rankings, we may assume that traditional universities from the US and the UK tend to perform better than their rivals in Asia, Australia Africa or South America, especially when we explore ‘reputation’ of the institution. In previous years, it was reported that the THE rankings rely on reputational surveys, which involve polling academics about which universities they think are the best in a given field. Hence, it may be meaningless for most academics. Some argue that these assessments often use too few academics, who may not be well informed about all the universities they are being asked to judge the quality and reputation of the University, and that there is a bias towards English-speaking countries, particularly those from the traditional UK and American systems.

Some academics may argue against the methodology and validity of the ranking system. The clear dilemma of the university rankings system, despite its diversity, is that its core agenda is to develop systems or indicators drawn from one reality, and get them to speak to diverse academic contexts across culture. Australian academic contexts are clearly different from those in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. Therefore, our strong performance may be valid or invalid in the global academic culture. The standard uniform of rankings system may promote the homogenization of academic culture, which is not desirable in education.

Of special concern are the aspects of the method which deal with the difficult-to-measure concept of institutional reputation and research influence. Some academics may choose to ignore the ranking. We, however, must admit that THE is one of the highly regarded publications. Its influence is worldwide. Most governments, academic institutions, research funding bodies and students look at them to judge the quality of the universities.

Because of its influence in the international education market, international governments, students and parents will continue to seek out the best institution and continue to consult the wide variety of available university rankings. Leaders in the Australian higher education system must understand the controversy and rules involved in university rankings. It will help Australian universities to improve their academic performance in the future.

Dr. Nattavud Pimpa is a senior lecturer in international business at RMIT University.

This essay was previously published in online opinion

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Australia and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011-12

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings were developed in concert with the rankings data provider, Thomson Reuters, with expert input from more than 50 leading figures in the sector from 15 countries across every continent.

Their rankings of the top universities across the globe employ 13 separate performance indicators designed to capture the full range of university activities, from teaching to research to knowledge transfer. These 13 elements are brought together into five headline categories, which are:

Teaching — the learning environment (worth 30 per cent of the overall ranking score)
Research — volume, income and reputation (worth 30 per cent)
Citations — research influence (worth 30 per cent)
Industry income — innovation (worth 2.5 per cent)
International outlook — staff, students and research (worth 7.5 per cent).

The overall world top 200 rankings, the banded lists of a further 200 "best of the rest" universities, and the six tables showing the top 50 institutions by subject are based on criteria and weightings that were carefully selected after extensive consultation. We recognise that different users have different priorities, so to allow everyone to make the most of our exceptionally rich data and gain a personalised view of global higher education.

and the top 10 World University Rankings are...

1) California Institute of Technology (USA)
2) Harvard University (USA)
3)Stanford University (USA)
4) Oxford University (UK)
5) Princeton University (USA)
6) Cambridge University (UK)
7) MIT (USA)
8) Imperial College London (UK)
9) University of Chicago (USA)
10) UC Berkeley (USA)

and thos from Australia that appears in the list include
The University of Melbourne (37)
ANU (38)
The University of Queensland (74)

More information can be accessed at

I will write an analysis of the ranking and hopefully I can publish it in the media somewhere.

Nattavud Pimpa is a senior lecturer in international business at RMIT University, Australia.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

My Teaching Trip in Shanghai

I spent 8 days in Shanghai, China in September to teach a group of 94 undergraduate students at Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade. This wasn't my first time to Shanghai because, as part of my teaching plan at RMIT University, I also was there in 2010.

The trip was truly a story of transnational education and I need to share 3 points with you from the perspectives of an academic who experiences the up and down of offshore teaching.

1) Preparation for academic staff who is scheduled to teach offshore is very important. I understand from my previous experiences that we need to understand various aspects of the host country. Simple issues such as how to go to the classroom, how to operate computer in the local language, where to buy coffee or how to approach your students etc. are extremely important. Most academic staff did not get enough preparation from their institutions and may find this aspect of work is difficult to manage.

2) Relationship management with your students and academic/professional staff at the host country. Student-teacher varies across culture. You may be comfortable with the way you are contacted by your students at home and make sure that you don't expect the similar kind of treatment in the new cultural setting. I think it is wise to talk to your colleagues or partners from the host country about this issue before you embark on the new journey.

3) Classroom management in the transnational education is interesting. Classroom can be more than a place of teaching and learning. In some culture, classroom is a place for social interaction and that how people learn very well. I, again, suggest you to talk to your friend from the local institution in terms of student's expectation, practices in the classroom and how to engage students in that cultural context.

nattavud pimpa is a senior lecturer in international business at RMIT University, Australia

Friday, 22 July 2011

Green Education in Singapore

IBM has partnered Singapore's Ministry of Education (MOE) to help schools in the country become more "green".

Under the collaboration, the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) will tap Big Blue's expertise and technologies to develop a system that tracks power usage and reduces energy and maintenance costs, IBM said Friday in a statement. The system will be implemented in 20 schools.

The vendor has provided a US$100,000 grant to the SGBC for the initiative, dubbed Project Green Insights.

IBM said in the statement that a network of smart meters will be installed in the selected schools to track energy usage patterns, with the data accessible in a dashboard view via the cloud to stakeholders including teachers and students. The collaboration will seek to reduce usage tied to lighting and air-conditioning, with the aim of lowering carbon emissions.

According to an IBM spokesperson, only one school, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East, has so far been selected for the first phase of the project. Another four schools will be jointly chosen by MOE, SGBC and IBM by mid-September this year.

Phase two, which will involve the remaining 15 schools, is scheduled to kick off in December 2011. The entire pilot project is expected to last a year from now.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Asian Era in International Education

I have included the topic of inter-cultural communication in my class since 2008. Basically, my assumption is everyone who studies international business should learn the difficulties of cross-cultural communication and be comfortable with it. A number of studies that I looked at from key journals in international business (such as Journal of International Business Studies and Asia Pacific Journal of Management) confirm that communication does matter.

In BRW magazine a few months ago, the editor cited that Australian businesses lack the skills needed to cash in on the Asia boom with most executives unable to speak an Asian language.

They conducted a few surveys on this issue and it shows that, although most companies surveyed plan to increase their exposure to the rapidly growing markets on our doorstep, more than half had minimal experience in the region.

The report, by the Australian Industry Group and Asialink, said three-quarters of the 380 businesses surveyed were eyeing opportunities in Asia, and more than half were planning to expand over the next year.

But it also said 84 per cent of board members did not speak an Asian language, highlighting a key skills deficit facing Australia.

I found one repot that interview the CEO of Ai Group (Heather Ridout) and found that as more businesses had their futures tied to the region, these shortages were shaping up as a challenge.

Ms Ridout called on the government to create a workforce strategy to ensure Australian businesses had the necessary skills to engage in the region, and to invest more in Asian language programs.

I currently am working at a University of Technology where only 2 Asian languages, Chinese and Japanese, are taught. Having established the move from members of South East Asian nations (from ASEAN Free Trade Area to ASEAN economic community), I believe that languages such as Bahasa Indonesia, Vietnamese, Thai, Hindu, Bahala MAlayu etc. must be included in our business and management education.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Demise of International Education in Australia

International education has long been the major export commodity from Australia to the World, mostly to Asia. We think there is no such thing as the end of this industry, as long as international students (and their parents) still need to speak English and put a high value on ‘Western’ education and degree. Some national statistics confirm that we need to revise the way we manage our international education policy.

The latest Federal Government figures show a 1.4 per cent decline in enrolments since December 2009 year for a sector that has grown almost 11 per cent a year for the past eight years. International students make up about a quarter of all university enrolments in Australia, so any reduction in intake has a serious impact on the bottom line. What contribute to the drop of international students? Apart from the obvious short-term factors such as complication in immigration policy and the application for international student visa, competition from the UK and the US, and the solid of Australian dollars, I would like to propose two long-term critical factors which are related to the demise of international education industry.

The first, and perhaps most important, issue is quality in Australian higher education system. In 2010, Australian Education International (AEI) commissioned a study on international students’ satisfaction. It is reported in the study that the five most important factors influencing students’ decision on where to study were: Quality of teaching (with 96% of respondents identifying this factor as important or very important); Reputation of a qualification from the institution (93%); personal safety (92%); reputation of the institution (91%); and research quality (90%). The concept of quality of international education goes beyond accommodating the learning needs of international students arising out of their own cultural and linguistic experience. Stakeholders in international education need to address key issues such as how international students are treated in and outside the university, what are the implications of international and local students learning to learn together, and how to promote healthy lifestyle and well-being among international students in this country?

The government try to create quality education through different mechanisms. One prominent strategy is the coalition of research bloc of the country’s eight elite universities known as the Group of Eight (GO8). It is recently reported that the federal government’s proposal to provide an additional 110,000 undergraduate student places by 2020, and 235,000 by 2030, within the GO8 system is putting quantity over quality and will result in much higher fees or greatly diminished academic standards. Hence, it is unlikely that the research intensive plan will be easily achieved when academic staff doubles their teaching and administrative load.

The second issue, for me, is the way we treat international students in Australia. A number of research studies in international education and trade in education service confirm that, for most international students, Australia is perceived as a safe, cheap and comfortable place to study. These points can be found and imitated in some other countries that export education to the international market. As a person working in this industry, I hardly hear a quick response from the University or the Australian government to international students to show our concern for their well-being. For instance, with the current disaster in Japan, we have not received a strong message from any major institutions or government to share how much we care for our Japanese students and their families.
Not so long ago, the spate of "racially-motivated attacks" on Indian students drew flak from all across the globe after several Indian students were injured and some even lost their lives. The quick response was several trips to India by top government officers, in order to promote Australia as a safe place to study. Instead of stating that the situation was not racially-motivated attack, the Australian government should have addressed some clear strategies to protect our international students from crime against our international students.

When it comes to the ‘value’ of Australian education, not much has been discussed and implemented among stakeholders in the international education industry. Henry George once stated that the value of a thing in any given time and place is the largest amount of exertion that anyone will render in exchange for it. What is the value of Australian education in the eyes of international students? What do they want in return from the money and time they spend in Australia? For instance, an international undergraduate business student at the University of Melbourne pays $31,776 a year. On top of the tuition fees are living expenses, other non-financial expenses and life opportunities.

Clearly, focusing on being an easy place to live and study is not quite the right message to send to international students (and their parents). Most Anglophone countries can modify their economic and education policies if they need to attract international students by focusing on offering cheap and easy courses to study. However, not all countries can provide a world class education system. The United States of America is a classic example when we think about the sustainability of international education industry. The Ivy league system and the balance of research and teaching universities in America can ensure the quality of existing teaching system and the creation of new knowledge. This is the message that all stakeholders in international education need to send to our international students and their parents. Australia must be perceived as a quality place for education, not a place to visit Koala and Kangaroo.

The image of being an easy place to study may be linked with the lack of preparation to offer an excellent education (and lifestyle) to our international students. Some recent examples include Canberra’s decision to lower entry requirements for international students, the increasing numbers of poor quality higher education degrees among public regional universities and private companies in most major cities in Australia, and the poor reactive and defensive strategies to support international students’ welfare and security. We cannot leave these issues with the government alone. As an academic, I believe all stakeholders in international education must acknowledge these issues and work towards the improvement of international students’ life and well-being in this country, if we need to offer an expensive value of Australian education in the global market.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Tertiary slump to sting unis

STUDENTS are turning away from tertiary education courses in Victoria, with applications to study at TAFE plummeting by almost 10 per cent.

International year 12 student applications have slumped by 6 per cent this year, which will alarm universities because they depend on international student fees to subsidise domestic places.

Mature-age applications and graduate-entry teaching applications also plunged by 8.7 per cent.

Despite the fall in applications, the overall number of students who received tertiary offers - 75,781- was up 2.5 per cent from last year, according to the Victorian Tertiary Admission Centre.

Of those who applied to study at university, 82 per cent received an offer.

Poor and disadvantaged students were clear winners, with university offers to students from low socio-economic backgrounds increasing by 8 per cent, following the higher participation targets set by the federal government after the 2008 Bradley review of higher education.

The government has set a national target of 20 per cent of students at university coming from low socio-economic backgrounds by 2020.

It is also pushing for the overall number of students attending university to rise. University enrolment caps have been increased in recent years, and will be scrapped next year.

The government wants 40 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds to hold a bachelor degree by 2025, up from the current 29 per cent.

While university applications fell by 1.3 per cent in Victoria, TAFE and private tertiary colleges were most severely hit, receiving 8.7 per cent and 7 per cent fewer applications respectively.

University of Melbourne associate professor Leesa Wheelahan said when the economy was doing well there was less demand for tertiary education because it was easier to get a job.

She also said universities were poaching students because of the drop in international students and the new demand-led higher education system, which would lead to the cap on university enrolments being lifted next year.

''Universities are trying to get a bigger share of enrolments and cannibalising students who would normally apply to TAFE,'' she said.

Professor Wheelahan said the former state government's controversial shake-up of vocational education could also have cut TAFE applications, with fees for higher qualifications almost tripling and HECS-style loans introduced.

''I don't think the Victorian government has done a particularly good job of explaining income-contingent loans,'' she said.

The University of Melbourne this year offered 6000 new undergraduate places, more than ever and an 8 per cent increase on 2010. The number of offers it made to students from low socio-economic backgrounds jumped from 325 to 606, while offers to rural students increased from 659 to 754.

Acting vice-chancellor Professor Susan Elliott said the increase in overall offers, especially for disadvantaged students, was partly a response to the federal government's call for better university access for all students but also an essential part of the university's Melbourne Model. Under the model, students study a broad undergraduate degree and specialise at postgraduate level.

But when asked whether the government's growth agenda was sustainable, University of Melbourne senior vice-principal Ian Marshman said it was a serious issue for research-intensive universities such as Melbourne.

''In one sense the whole of the system has been living off the benefits of international student enrolments,'' he said. ''If there is some real hiccup in that area, it's going to make quite a big difference.''

Mr Marshman said his university received an average $16,000 for a Commonwealth-supported domestic student place and about $28,000 in fees from an international student, when the average cost of educating a student was more than $20,000, ''so there is actually a direct cross-subsidy from fee-paying students''.

''It's providing disincentives to institutions to enrol significant numbers of additional domestic students because they are losing money,'' he said.

The standard cutoff score to get into arts at the University of Melbourne was 88, down from 89 last year, and 85.05 for science, down from 89.05

by Jewel Topsfield

Friday, 7 January 2011

Australian Universities hit hard by slump in foreign students

A slump in the number of international students coming to Australia is causing major problems for universities reliant on full-fee-paying students.

The latest Federal Government figures show a 1.4 per cent decline in enrolments since this time last year for a sector that has grown almost 11 per cent a year for the past eight years.

International students make up about a quarter of all university enrolments in Australia, so any reduction in intake has a serious impact on the bottom line.

Monash University is Australia's largest university and has more international students than any other.

Vice-chancellor Professor Ed Byrne says enrolments in English language courses at Monash College are down 30 per cent.

With half of those students typically migrating to full-fee-paying university places, that is a substantial loss of income.

"For next year, we're about $40 million on the income side away from where we'd hoped to be," he said.

Monash has just approved 359 redundancies to improve its budget forecast for next year.

Jennie Lang is pro-vice-chancellor international at the University of New South Wales. She says the decline in student numbers is worrying.

"In some instances, the downturn will initially be small and will be handled on the margins. In other universities it will be catastrophic," she said.

China is Australia's biggest market for international students, with India a close second.

Government data shows Indian student enrolments are down 17 per cent on this time last year.

The high Australian dollar has increased competition from the US and UK, but Ms Lang says recent changes to immigration rules are also to blame.

"There's been really significant problems about the messages we used in the election campaign to do with migration and whether or not Australia wants to grow its population," she said.

"That's been interpreted in our major source countries in Asia as Australia now sort of moving away from having international students and migrants."

'Perceived racism'

Ms Lang says there is also a perception that Australia is not as welcoming as it could be to international students.

"We've been picking that up in a number of countries that we've been visiting this year," she said.

Spokesman for the Federation of Indian Students of Australia, Gautam Gupta, agrees with the assessment.

"I think everything plays a role. High Australian dollar obviously contributes, as for migration laws again, definitely a reason," he said.

"The biggest problem is the lack of confidence in the Australian Government and the lack of ability to stem the increasing violence."

Professor Byrne agrees perceived racism against Indian students has had an impact.

"We have a really good idea of this because of interviews with students and with our many agents throughout Asia," he said.

"So in South Asia, initially there were cultural safety factors as perceived in India. Now they've been addressed very vigorously by the Federal Government and by the university sector.

"I think cultural safety and a mutual understanding is being built up. It will take a few years to completely get over that hiccup but we'll get there.

"The Indian market was also very migration-focused and the new migration criteria I think have affected that market also."

But Professor Byrne is hopeful the downturn is not indicative of a long-term trend and that enrolment numbers from all overseas markets will have improved by 2013.

"I don't think there is going to be a decline in the long run," he said.

"Remember that the number of people who live in families that can afford university education privately in Asia is predicted to grow from something like 300 million today to over 1.4 billion in 10 years' time.

"The current international student market from Asia, especially China, is growing at more than 30 per cent a year and I think that's predicted to continue into the future.

"So this market is going to grow internationally for many, many years."

Source: ABC news by Anna Hipsley