Why Australia can’t afford to neglect international students
“We must continue viewing students as an asset, not just to our economy, but to the prosperity of our nation”
Have you ever stopped to think about what Australia would be like without international education? Australia’s education industry supports 240,000 jobs. If all those people suddenly became unemployed, our unemployment rate would jump from 5.2% to 7.1%. With a $37.7 billion hole in Australia’s economy, either taxes would go up, or spending on services would go down.
In the past, Australia’s prosperity was driven via wool, wheat and energy exports. Today, international education is one of the country’s strongest revenue generators, with recent federal department of education statistics revealing that over 700,000 international students have lived, worked and studied in Australia this year to date.
Our future prosperity is undeniably linked with international education, which is why it’s critical that we continue to treat students studying in Australia as valued customers and set sensible targets for intakes.
At present, Australia and international students operate in a strong, reciprocal relationship. Students who study here are offered a world-class education while contributing to the betterment of the country. It’s important that we focus on the value that current international students bring, and nurture their study experience rather than setting unrealistic goals to bring in huge student numbers.
This would not only be unsustainable but could potentially damage the student experience for those already studying here. History is filled with examples of industries that exploited their customer base to their own detriment, and we must remember these lessons in order to prevent damaging one of our most important sectors.
” It’s important that we focus on the value that current international students bring”
Learning from the past
In a past life, I spent 15 years working in the banking industry. In the late 2000s, I saw how the banks tried to squeeze every last bit of value out of their customers. Instead of seeing them as valuable to their business success, they got greedy – becoming fixated on the revenue their customers had the potential to generate.
As a result, everyone suffered. Businesses went bankrupt due to banking policy changes and people lost their homes. Not only was this approach a poor example of how to treat customers, it also caused significant reputational damage to the industry. To this day, many see the banking industry as completely untrustworthy.
A significant impact
The Australian National Outlook 2019 Report was recently compiled by CSIRO, NAB and more than 20 partners, and suggests that if Australia wants to tread the path of continued prosperity, we need to boost productivity in established industries, prepare our workforce for jobs of the future, and invest in innovative, high-growth industries.
Australia is a small country compared to the world’s superpowers, and because of this, we need the brainpower and global perspective of those in the international student community. Leveraging the knowledge of this talented group will enable us to accelerate our country towards working and creating the jobs of the future – and help us to compete on the global stage.
“We need the brainpower and global perspective of those in the international student community”
At Cohort Go, we are a global company proudly based in Queensland. No fewer than 13 of our 40 team members are international students. From computer vision graduates to customer experience experts – without the availability of these skills, our business would potentially have to move offshore in order to innovate and thrive.
This kind of value shows just how vital international students are to Australia, and why we must continue viewing students as an asset, not just to our economy, but to the prosperity of our nation.
Taking just a glimpse into what Australia would look like without international students, you can see how important it is that we continue to balance industry growth with maintaining customer satisfaction.
We’ve done well to-date in this regard, but we must not rest on our laurels when it comes to striking such a balance in the future. If we do, Australia’s future prosperity will be at risk.
About the author: Mark Fletcher is CEO and co-founder of Cohort Go; a leading edtech company that connects the international education community. The Cohort Go global network includes over 2,000 education providers and agents and more than 100,000 students from over 180 countries.