The Victorian Global Education Network’s expansion into emerging high-growth markets like Kenya – one of the largest economies in sub-Saharan Africa and the largest in Eastern and Central Africa – promises to usher in a stronger connection between the education hubs of the state and the prospective students in the African country.
Recently appointed by the Victorian government’s Trade and Investment Office as the Education Services Consultant for Kenya, Mahul Shah, is heading back to Kenya to begin connecting the dots between future students and institutions.
“I returned to Australia from Kenya just before Covid hit,” he told The PIE. “The industry pretty much got decimated overnight, and any opportunities that were there or in the pipeline, were lost. The last year and a half has been very quiet.”
The Victorian government acknowledges the significant contribution that education providers make and the serious impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the sector. It is collaborating with providers and the federal government on a plan to facilitate the gradual return of international students, when conditions allow.
“The enrolment process can take anywhere between 6 to 12 months, that’s why I’m heading to Kenya this week to get that process started. As soon as the borders are open, the students will be ready to arrive,” Shah explained.
“As soon as the borders are open, the students will be ready to arrive”
The Victorian government is offering a range of initiatives to encourage prospective students to make Victoria their first choice, including a pathway to Victoria scholarship program and international research partnerships.
Five new international Study Melbourne Hubs will sit alongside the government’s Trade and Investment Network, creating a pathway for students to study in Victoria and securing a greater share of overseas students studying online.
The Victorian government’s International Education Short-Term Recovery Plan is worth $33.4 million and intends to reset and stimulate the sector and position the state for recovery.
Canada and the UK having been “going gang busters” because of Australia’s closed borders, Shah suggested.
His job on the ground in Kenya is about helping the education agents to once again start thinking about Australia and Victoria in particular, as coveted international study options.
“[Kenyan students] want to go overseas to study, whether it’s the UK, Canada, or Australia, they want to venture out of Kenya and experience another culture.
“If Australia was to open the borders tomorrow, there’s already a large cohort of students who already have visas and are doing their study online and are ready to board planes to come here,” Shah said.
Alongside the quality of education, family ties among the Kenyan diaspora make for a significant reason for students to come to Melbourne to study.
“I’ve seen generations go through the Australian education system. Four years ago I had a lady come into the office with an 18 year old, we talked about what the young woman wanted to do and at the end of the conversation, the lady said to me, ‘You don’t remember who I am, do you?’ and she went, ‘I’m Archie’s mum’.
“Archie was one of the first students I sent to Australia and this young woman was Archie’s daughter,” Shah said.