Reflecting on 20 years of AAERI

Rahul Gandhi, president of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India, reflects on the association’s history as is celebrates its 20th anniversary.

While I was a student in Australia 20 years ago, AAERI was born at the Australian High commission, New Delhi, as the brainchild of Prof Tom Calma and the founder AAERI members. For any child, the initial 5 years are important as these define his character. Similarly for AAERI, the initial 5 years were important. It was because of hand holding by the Australian High commission, New Delhi, that AAERI was able to crawl, walk and eventually stand on its own feet. Today, the child has grown into an adult and AAERI is a proud Indian association which operates within the framework of the ESOS act of Australia & AAERI’s code of ethics. For AAERI, Australia is its soul and India is its heart.

“For AAERI, Australia is its soul and India is its heart”

I am proud to say that Australia not only provides education but also a new life to international students. For an Indian student, education is an investment of time, effort and resources, and Indian parents start saving resources from the day the child is born. This is where AAERI has played a significant role. It makes sure that the AAERI members are not only certified but also abide by the code of ethics and have gone through background checks.

Its 20th year is time to take a pause and travel down memory lane and, at the same time, visualise the future too.

The last 20 years have been eventful. I’m reminded of the student mugging issues of 2008-09. The Indian media was hostile and while we awaited the reaction from the Australian government; senior AAERI members such as Mr. Ravi Lochan Singh, Mr. Gulshan Kumar and Mr. Naveen Chopra did several press conferences across the country and were engaging the student fraternity. They were also promoting Australia as a study destination.

In the past, there were collaborative efforts by Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK for the ethical recruitment of International students. This is popularly know as the London Statement, and AAERI has welcomed such statements. In the past, AAERI has made a number of submissions in the interest of Australian education. AAERI also had a meeting with the Honourable Michael Knight before he released the Student Visa Program Review. In August 2015, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, then the Minister of Education, during his visit to India acknowledged the role of AAERI in the internationalisation of the Australian education sector.

Pressing issues

Currently, there are four issues which concern the industry at large:

1. Issues related to service tax

Service tax may or may not be applicable on inward remittances. This is a complex problem and it will compound with the introduction of GST from April 2017. Service tax, which is currently at 15%, is likely to go up to 20% with the introduction of GST. AAERI has been in consultation with the senior lawyers from the Supreme court of India.

2. Course hopping,  also know as Waka Jumping

AAERI is of the view that ESOS act needs to review the policy on commission payments to onshore agents. In the US, commission payments to onshore agents are banned and maybe Australia needs to explore in that direction. This ban would protect and safeguard the Australian education export ndustry – one of the largest and most prospective industries in Australia.

3. Role of careers services

ROI does matter to the Indian students. Australian education providers are excellent in imparting education; however, there is a need for careers services to provide realistic services. These days, students are interested in knowing the work opportunities back in Asia. Career services need to market graduates and establish links with Asian companies.

4. Guidelines of the Association of Indian Universities

There are some courses offered by overseas education providers which are not recognised by the Indian government equivalent system, including: 1) master’s courses lasting one year, and 2) pathway programmes, diploma leading degree courses. AAERI has made submissions to the Indian Ministry of HRD to reconsider these guidelines.

Looking to the future

As part of our 20th year celebration, AAERI will be hosting a gathering for engaging the International Directors of Australian education providers – details will be shared soon in a few days’ time. AAERI will also be hosting various events within India, promoting Australian education.

By AAERI’s 25th anniversary, I would like to see AAERI as a global brand in promoting the Australian education and regulating the agents’ fraternity from the Indian subcontinent. AAERI is the only successful model of self-regulation and other countries such as NZ, the UK, Canada and the USA have taken inspiration from AAERI.

As AAERI, I guarantee that we will work in the interest of the students going to Australia & will continue to reform which is in the interest of the Australian Education brand.

Before I end, I want to thank the guest of honour at our celebrations, Australian High commissioner to India, Her Excellency Ms. Harinder Sidhu & the Chief guest – Chancellor of University of Canberra, Prof Tom Calma & his family for accepting the invitation. I want to thank & acknowledge the role of Department of Education & Training, Department of Immigration & Border protection and Austrade for the support & encouragement to AAERI over a period of years. I also want to thank the Sponsors Vodafone Australia, NIB Health funds and Pearsons Test of English – Academic for believing in the AAERI and supporting the 20th year anniversary. I also want to thank my AAERI executives for bringing this event together.

The biggest achievement for AAERI in 20 years is it survivals for such a long time and that too with number of reforms which protects the interest of the students going to Australia and the Australian education brand. I have seen number of associations which perish within first five years and AAERI has survived for 20 years and that itself is an achievement considering that all AAERI members are competitors at the end of the day. AAERI is always thankful to the support & encouragement which we have received from Department of Education & Training, Department of Immigration & boarder protection and Austrade. For AAERI, Australia is its sole and India is it heart.

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In the education sphere, people can be quick to criticise for-profit education – but having worked in both the public and private sectors, Michael Evans wonders if we’re asking the right questions.

A recent article posted in The PIE News reported on the results of a study carried out by the UK based Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), which looked at for-profit degree granting institutions in six countries. I suspect most educators working in HE education in the last ten years would able to predict many of the study’s results, as well as the tenor of the post.

That there are issues in for-profit education is by now conventional wisdom. As well, certainly no one would suggest anything but the most robust policies to protect student tuition and uphold natural justice in dealings between the student and institution. However, when opinions are so ubiquitously held around other more complex issues, does it not beg the question as to whether we are fully understand the issues?  I am not an apologist for private education; however, having worked in both public and for-profit education, I think the conventional thinking around these issues demonstrates the need for a different approach.
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If crisis strikes when students are overseas, how can institutions check they’re ok? Email is just too slow, writes Mandy Reinig, director of study away at Virginia Wesleyan College and founder of the social media consultancy Mandy’s Mashups. She explains how social media can help to reach students who might otherwise fall off the radar.

Most people in the field of international education now understand the importance of social media in communicating with students. However, many have yet to harness its power in crisis situations. The world today has become an increasingly volatile place where the unexpected can occur at any moment. As such it is important to be able to have a means of contacting your students to determine their whereabouts and their safety status. Unfortunately, email, and even phone calls, cannot be relied on as the sole or even a reliable means of communication due to the fact that students often do not check their email regularly and in major events phone lines can be down for hours.
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“All of a sudden my plans seemed not so sure anymore, and it was easy to see how current and prospective international students might feel the same”

Melisa Costinea, originally from Transylvania, Romania, is studying PGDip Social Research Methods at University College London, and has previously studied MA Film and Visual Culture – Sociology at University of Aberdeen. She is currently interning for UKCISA, and here she writes about her reaction to the Brexit vote, and how UKCISA is working to support international students.

Everyone will remember what they did on the 23rd of June of 2016 as one would remember, for example, where they were when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I think the first thing that one should do in the aftermath of Britain’s EU Referendum result is acknowledge the immense impact that this has had on so many people, including an international student such as myself. Along the way, I will also give you a glimpse into how UKCISA is responding to the situation.
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Sean de Lacey, head of sales at Diversity Travel, a travel management firm which specialises in travel in the academic sector, discusses the importance of duty of care for growing institutions.

At an event in collaboration with the University of the West of Scotland, Diversity Travel invited procurement and finance personnel from UK academic institutions across the country to discuss key issues in academic travel. One of the main takeaways from the event was that many institutions have recognised the importance of overseas expansion and collaboration, and that it is essential that they travel to international markets to drive growth and development opportunities forward.

International travel gives these institutions access to a global network and allows academics to share first-hand experiences and insights with their students and fellow academics. Through a travel network that is becoming more affordable and easier to navigate, faculty can now reap the benefits of networking overseas to attract an international student base, and produce courses and research projects with a global perspective.
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When asked outright: “Did any traditional rankings of this university influence your decision to study at this university?” 77% of the student respondents answered “No”

Are rankings really that important to students? Nelli Koutaniemi, coordinator at Study Advisory, shares the preliminary findings of a survey that suggests student satisfaction doesn’t always correlate with league tables.

Student mobility and digitalization are the megatrends of our time. There are currently 200 million students enrolled in a higher education institution, and that number is projected to exceed 660 million by 2040. Finding the most suitable option of education is, however, difficult and the competition between students for universities is tough. In addition, search patterns have changed: rather than visiting campuses or education expos nationally, students look for information online, and to be more specific, globally online, since future students are increasingly looking to apply to study abroad.
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Coverage of INZ’s investigation into student visa fraud reflects immigration at the heart of the political debate

“The media coverage here reflects an international trend that places immigration at the heart of the political debate”

An investigation by Immigration New Zealand into financial document fraud among some agents and bank managers in India has created bad press around the recruitment of Indian students via agents – but Brett Berquist, director international at the University of Auckland, offers his take on quality protections across the country;s universities and how the investigation fits into a wider debate about immigration and the need for international talent.

New Zealand is proactively developing its international education market and has seen some significant growth recently in the private training establishment sector (PTE), with a recent government announcement showing 13% growth overall for the IE sector in 2015. This is driven primarily by the PTE sector and growth from India.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s universities aim for slow and sustained growth,grow by 4% to reach 26k in 2015. Currently India is just 5% of our international enrolments in the tertiary sector. It is a complex market with a significant portion of it driven by migration goals. India is forecast to grow by 30 million people of tertiary education age over the next decade and the university sector is working to build visibility for sustained growth.
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“There’s no absolute guarantee that EU students starting three or four year programmes in September will have visas to study once Britain is outside the union. That’s a very high level of risk for any EU student”

Ant Bagshaw, assistant director at Wonkhe, the UK’s leading higher education policy analysis website, digs down into the economic impact of Brexit for the UK higher education sector.

Let’s start with the good news. With the value of the pound falling to lows not seen since 1985, the cost of exports – including tuition for foreign students – have reduced dramatically. International students with places to study in the UK have just seen their fees and costs of living reduce by ten per cent. That should be good for demand even if the global PR disaster that is Brexit (we’ve decided to become a more insular nation) diverts some students to other Anglophone markets.
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What does the US election mean for international education?

“It is a very frightening time to be an American”

I was at this year’s annual NAFSA conference in Denver, where I spoke to people from all around the world about a wealth of topics, both industry-related and not. But sooner or later, every conversation seemed to end up at one of two destinations: Brexit or the upcoming US presidential election. And sooner or later, everyone had to answer the same questions: Do you think Donald Trump might actually win? What do people make of him in other countries? What might happen if Hillary Clinton becomes president? What would either mean for international education?

Here are some of the things people had to say about how the election outcome might impact the sector, and how the campaigns so far have been heard around the world: