Monday, 27 May 2013
Education and Employment Committee; Report
On behalf of the Standing Committee on Education and Employment, I present the following report: International education support and collaboration: review of the 2010-2011 annual report of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, together with the minutes of proceedings and evidence received by the committee.
In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.
I seek leave to make a statement on the report.
This report and review followed bills inquiry work that the committee undertook in 2011 into overseas students and higher education support amendment bills. These were the Commonwealth government's final phase response to the Baird review and introduced new protections for overseas students.
In light of the Baird , and also Knight visa reform changes in recent years , the c ommittee thought it timely and opportune to convene a roundtable to provide members with an update on the status of the reforms, and to hold discussions on key issues concerning international students in Australia today.
The c ommittee invited government departments and agencies, advocacy organisations, academics and international students to two roundtable sessions on 3 April 2012. The first topic focused on the sector as a whole, and the second, on sustainability of the sector and future opportunities.
Prior to tabling this report, the committee invited those government departments and agencies that appeared at the original roundtable to provide a further progress update. Both the roundtable and subsequent briefing highlighted the importance of consulting regularly with international students, especially on changes to visa rules.
The Study in Australia website is an important information portal for international students but we have recommended some additional components to further assist students. Information should be made available on the eligibility of transport concessions in respective states and territories. There should be frequently asked questions and case studies on accommodation and tenancy rights and health insurance cover, as well as example quotes of health insurance costs to help students make informed decisions about appropriate cover when they compare deals provided by different providers.
While the sector has experienced fluctuating enrolment numbers in recent years, the committee learnt that reforms are consolidating. Moreover, there are many positive stories and messages to be shared in respect of international students' experience in Australia. There is a burgeoning growth in two-way exchanges, twinning programs, transnational skills training, regional collaboration and cooperation, and global partnerships.
International education is Australia's fourth biggest export at $14 billion a year, but it is so much more than that.
Beyond the market based perspective, education plays a significant role in facilitating and strengthening people-to - people links in our region. It also shapes perceptions of Australia overseas and Australia's perceptions and understanding of the larger world around it.
The committee's final recommendation was that the Commonwealth government seek opportunities to promote discussions surrounding the future sustainability and possibilities for international education in Australia and our region, and to invite stakeholders to participate in these on a regular and ongoing basis.
In closing, I thank all the inquiry participants and my committee colleagues who participated in this inquiry. I commend the report to the House.