The University of the Sunshine Coast has applauded Federal Government announcements that should support students and Australia’s economic recovery.
The Government announced a package of measures to provide regulatory fee relief for universities and more flexible visa settings for international students to make their return to Australia an easier process.
It also released the Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030, which charts a path to sustainable growth for Australia’s international education sector.
USC Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Helen Bartlett said the combination of these announcements was welcome news for the higher education sector.
Professor Bartlett, an Expert Member of the Council for International Education that led consultations on the strategy’s development, said it provided a clear message to international students that Australia was a great place to study.
“The visa changes that have been announced will not only support our international students but also provide a crucial component of our economic recovery and help us retain and attract skilled workers,” she said.
“And I am particularly pleased with the strategy’s strong focus on diversification, national skills needs, putting students at the centre, and global competitiveness, as these are areas that have required attention for some time.”
Professor Bartlett said government figures showed that in 2019 – prior to the pandemic – international education contributed $40.3 billion per year to the economy and supported about 250,000 Australian jobs.
“International students clearly do a lot more than just pay tuition fees,” she said.
“They bring their collective diversity and knowledge to our education institutions, workplaces and communities.
“If they feel welcomed, valued, and included in their community when they are in Australia, it provides them with a wonderful student experience that has far-reaching positive benefits, both for them and for our country.”
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“This can be enhanced in regional Australia, where students often experience greater opportunities to be involved in the community and improve their English, along with smaller class sizes, increased safety and a lower cost of living.”
Professor Bartlett said regional universities also had formed partnerships with local industry and business that provided valuable and innovative work-integrated learning opportunities for international students.
“For example, international students have provided great value-add to local businesses in helping them get their products to market globally via opportunities like the Study Queensland Launch U Trade Accelerator,” she said.
“This involved the students carrying out international market research and providing recommendations on international business growth opportunities to Queensland-based businesses.”