Occasional Paper 2010/5

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Racism and the tertiary student experience in Australia

This paper is a report of a workshop held on 31 March 2010. Public policy does not stand still, and a dynamic area such as this has continual policy adjustments and program changes. At the end of this paper is a list which refers readers to government responses and some of the policy work currently under way.

This paper is not meant to be a definitive policy piece, but rather a discussion starter as key stakeholders examine and debate a better way forward.

A few weeks after the workshop the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) considered the Baird Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 and in its communiqué of 20 April 2010, COAG stated that it had agreed to a suite of practical initiatives.

Some of these are:

  • An international student consultative committee will be established to give international students a national forum to put forward their views on issues affecting their study and living experience in Australia; international students will benefit from a national community engagement strategy that will facilitate connections between international students and the broader community, including increased understanding of rights and support services.
  • A Study in Australia information portal will provide a single source of authoritative, comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date information for students, including information on personal safety, student support services, and tenancy and employment rights and responsibilities.
  • From 1 January 2011, international students will have access to an independent statutory complaints body, as international education providers will be required to use this as their external complaints and appeals process.

The communiqué further states that:

  • COAG noted that early measures have already been taken to strengthen regulation and education quality. Governments have implemented a program of rapid quality and financial viability audits of international education providers and require that all providers re- register under tighter new criteria in 2010. COAG also acknowledged work with overseas governments to improve the regulation of education agents operating in their countries.
  • Strengthened migration policy arrangements will also encourage international students to focus on obtaining a quality education from a quality provider and will ensure that student visa applicants have the necessary funds to live in Australia.
  • Australian Police Commissioners have agreed that through the Australian and New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA), police would share best-practice safety initiatives related to international students and ANZPAA would work with stakeholders as appropriate, to disseminate this information.

A quick follow up were two releases by the Minister for Immigration who on 27 April 2010 announced changes to visa requirements and on 17 May 2010, changes to the skilled migration intake.

Amendments to the ESOS Act were due to be introduced in mid – 2010. The participants at this workshop were predominantly from the university sector, and did not deal with the many complexities in the VET system or of private for-profit providers.

About the Author

Adam Graycar FASSA is professor of public policy in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University and Dean of the Australian National Institute of Public Policy. He has had long experience in both government and academia. Most recent government position was Head, Cabinet Office, Government of South Australia (this post also had responsibility for federal/state relations and COAG matters). Most recent academic post was Dean, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

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