Life Education Universities retain international student focus
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Universities retain international student focus

Universities Australia chair Deborah Terry believes Australia will remain an attractive destination for international students. Photo: AAP
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International students are likely to remain a crucial part of Australian university funding in coming decades despite Scott Morrison’s call for a business model re-think.

Universities Australia chair Deborah Terry said student loads remained under constant consideration but she does not predict major change.

“We see international students continuing to be a very strong part of our sector,” she told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“For the benefit of the nation, international students, in our view, will be very much part of our future as they have been over the last six decades here in Australia.”

The Prime Minister last month said he’d be surprised if universities were not looking to major commercial partnerships as part of new funding structures.

Mr Morrison said the pandemic had caused many businesses to rethink their model and universities should be no different.

The government has launched a task force to investigate ways for universities to better turn research into commercial opportunities.

Professor Terry believes there is a recognition researchers need better support to turn outcomes into new industries and jobs.

“There’s a lot to do there and there’s many different points at which failure does occur. That’s exactly what this task force is very focused on looking at,” she said.

Universities Australia is hoping the coronavirus vaccine rollout will spark a detailed new national plan charting the return of foreign students.

But Professor Terry concedes bringing people in will be more complex than a one-off sporting event like the Australian Open tennis tournament.

Course priorities and quarantine arrangements for students across 39 universities in metropolitan and regional campuses shape as a massive logistical effort.

The UA chair is closely monitoring reports Chinese education agents are discouraging students from coming to Australia when borders reopen.

She said applications and enquiries remained strong with the reputation of universities a key selling point.

“We have been seen to be a very safe destination – we are. We’re seen to be a destination that’s managed the COVID-19 pandemic very well,” Professor Terry said.

“That’s extraordinarily attractive to prospective students.”

Universities are also monitoring any use of the Great Firewall of China to launch a strike on online courses being provided during the pandemic.

-AAP