The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is also being taken into consideration as the government reviews the document, a Department of Education spokesperson confirmed to The PIE News.

The strategy, released in 2016, was designed to grow Australia’s international education sector through three pillars: strengthening the fundamentals; making transformative partnerships; and competing globally, with nine associated goals.

The Council for International Education presented a report to the prime minister in December 2019 detailing progress and identifying areas of focus for the remaining period of the strategy.

“Expert members of the council will continue to work closely with the sector”

The delivery of initiatives to boost international education in regional Australia, including regional scholarship programs and adjustments to visa settings to offer additional post-study work rights to students in regional areas was one of the key achievements highlighted in the report.

The government will continue promoting its Destination Australia Program, which was introduced in 2019 at the expense of a two-way mobility program, the Endeavour Leadership Program.

The government will  also “continue to encourage the two-way flow of students in the Indo-Pacific” via the New Colombo Plan and will introduce an “additional 1–2 years of post-study work rights for eligible Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders”, the report noted.

The report highlighted the outcomes of a number of working groups focused on growing engagement with key markets including China, India, Latin America and Malaysia, and the completion of sector strategies for the Vocational Education and Training Sector, Schools and English Language sub-sectors.

The Council for International Education, made up of government representatives and expert members from the education sector, also used the report to issue a directive to refresh the strategy to reflect new global challenges.

“After consecutive years of growth, Australia’s international education sector now faces significant new challenges: the rebalancing of global political and economic power; increased competition from other nations, and the importance of ensuring international education become a sustainable element of Australian Society and the economy,” the report stated.

Some 17 key actions have already been identified for 2020, ranging from improving the student experience and providing effective quality assurance and regulation to building on local and international partnerships, and enhancing mobility through visa settings and work arrangements.

The government will focus on supporting student mental health and accommodation to provide a “positive student experience”, as well as develop opportunities for women in leadership and work together with the sector to address workplace exploitation.

While promoting the benefits of employing international graduates, the sector will also engage with the government’s Global Talent Programs to “harness international talent to work in emerging high-tech industries”.

Additionally, the government will aim to increase education agent transparency by refining regulatory frameworks. The sector will also be encouraged to undertake training on the National Code.

A Department of Education spokesperson confirmed while these actions are being implemented, a broader review of the strategy is also being undertaken including the impact of the coronavirus.

“A refresh of the National Strategy is already underway, following a directive from the Council for International Education late last year. This will take into account current challenges faced by the sector, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and consider how best to progress and expand the existing work plan,” they said.

“Expert members of the Council will continue to work closely with the sector to ensure the National Strategy remains fit for purpose and positions Australia to remain a world leader in international education.”

In China, recommendations from the China Working Group – including tools to strengthen strategic cooperation in education, training and research, an expansion of marketing efforts in China, and an exploration of opportunities with Chinese counterparts to support skills recognition and mobility for Chinese VET graduates from Australia – will be implemented.

It will also “seek dialogue” to develop joint online ward and non-award programs on a pilot basis.

The government will additionally develop a transnational education strategy to “grow enrolments in Australian courses delivered offshore and online”.

“The Australian government will expand bilateral engagement with key partners, build confidence and trust in Australian online learning and qualifications in Asia and Latin America,” the report continued.

Latin America Working Group report recommendations will be implemented, and the government will “work to address trade barriers to the delivery of education services in ASEAN nations”.

Similarly, together with the sector, the government will increase research collaboration with India with a focus on “building strength and cohesion in Australia’s education branding, enhancing student and academic mobility, increasing research collaboration and enhancing opportunities in the VET sector”.

Additional reporting by Viggo Stacey

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