What is the future of Australian universities?
Australia is facing a crisis in the global education sector, with universities in some parts of the country suffering significant cuts, with the number of foreign students dropping by 50 per cent and enrolments declining by 25 per cent since 2013.
But the impact of that decline on Australian students’ overall experience of learning, their quality of life and their ability to contribute is yet to be fully understood.
Here’s a look at what that means for universities and the wider sector.1.
Foreign students are losing out on education In Australia, international students make up almost 60 per cent of the total student population.
The International Development Association estimates that by 2020 there will be fewer than 1.5 million international students in the country, down from the current number of 4.5m.
But they are now facing even greater challenges.
The number of international students studying in Australia has fallen by almost 20 per cent in the last decade.
The decline in international students is primarily due to a decline in the number and quality of Australian institutions.
International students in Australia are less likely to have a full-time, full-year education, and are less able to access the Australian tertiary education system.
The lack of access to higher education and the economic crisis in many countries around the world has also led to a surge in demand for Australian education and tertiary qualifications.2.
More overseas students mean fewer international students for Australian universitiesThe number of Australian international students has fallen from around 40,000 in 2012 to about 22,000 today, but there are also more overseas students in this country than ever before.
A report published by the Australian Institute of Educational and Cultural Research (AIECR) in September revealed that the number, and proportion, of international undergraduate students in Australian universities is falling at an annualised rate of 2.7 per cent.
While international students may be an important source of students from the developing world, the trend is being seen across the whole Australian population.
In fact, the proportion of students who are overseas in Australian institutions is now higher than in previous years, even though the number is still relatively low compared to other countries.3.
The world is watching Australia’s universitiesWhile the drop in international student numbers has been a big issue for some time, there is now more than enough evidence to suggest that it has become a significant concern.
A study by the University of Queensland’s Institute of International Education found that Australia is experiencing a sharp decline in global educational attainment.
In 2012, only 20 per of the 1.7 million international student students in universities around the globe were from countries with more than 100,000 students.
By 2020, the figure had dropped to around 20 per, down to just 10 per cent from 25 per, and down to 8 per cent below the global average.4.
The economic downturn has made international students even more vulnerable To the extent that international students are unable to access education and skills, the impacts on Australia’s tertiary sector can be severe.
According to the AIECR report, there were 3,000 fewer students studying at Australian universities in the 2013-14 academic year than in 2012-13, while the proportion with full-term degrees had fallen from 23 per cent to 16 per cent, and the proportion in the tertiary qualification had dropped from 17 per cent on average to 15 per cent (and to 9 per cent for students in higher education).
This is a very real impact on Australia and it is now clear that international student enrolment is also having a significant impact on the quality of the Australian education system, and on the future viability of Australia’s higher education sector.5.
The AEDC’s report also warns that international education is not a one-off event The report also identifies a number of reasons that international and international students have experienced financial, social and other hardships as a result of the economic downturn in Australia.
Among these are the decline in student enrolments and the impact on Australian institutions of the drop-out rate.
The report states that students have been particularly hard hit by the drop out rate, with only 14 per cent graduating with a full degree in the 2014-15 academic year.
The financial stress is compounded by the uncertainty that international learning can cause in the workplace, with fewer job opportunities available to Australians who choose to study in the international sector.6.
The future of higher education is being decided by foreign students The financial hardship experienced by international students could also have a major impact on higher education.
In a new report published in the American Economic Review, the Australian Business Council and the Australian Chamber of Commerce warned that “foreign students are leaving Australia for the very first time”.
The authors of the report, which is titled, “Foreign students in Higher Education: What is in it for Australia?”, argue that this has been an inevitable consequence of the financial crisis.
The authors say that the “financial benefits that international tuition provides to students from developing countries” outweigh the costs.7.
Australia faces a major test of its ability to attract and retain international studentsThe AIE