Australian International Education Export Industry at Risk
Education is Australia’s fourth largest export industry, according to the Australian Government's International Education Advisory Council, earning $15.7B in 2011. For May 2014, the federal Department of Education estimates Australia has 405,000 international students, with 117,000 from China, 40,000 from India, 109,000 from other Asian countries, and 140,000 from other countries.
The government's Ministerial Coordinating Council for
International Education (MCCIE) expects international enrolments to increase 30% by 2020, adding 117,000 students. However, such predictions assume that students will continue to be educated largely as they are now: on-campus. Higher education is changing to a blended and on-line model, where students learn the basics on-line and then (perhaps) go into a classroom.
My rule of thumb is that about 80% of Higher Education can be done online.The typical student will only need to come to the campus for one day in five. If Australian educational institutions do not adopt this way of working, instead of increasing 30% by 2020, I suggest international enrolments could drop 80%. At the same time domestic enrolments could also drop by 80%, with most students studying at off-shore on-line universities.
To remain competitive, Australian educational institutions need to learn to teach students on-line. These students can then spend part of their time studying in their own country and part of their time in Australia.
Move the New Colombo Plan On-line
Australian Government is providing $100M over five years for the New Colombo Plan for Australian students to study in Asia and the Indian Ocean region. However, this is only being offered for students who physically travel and study in a classroom in another country.
This year the ANU commenced the bilingual (English and Hindi) online course ANU Engaging India for Australian and international students. Those students undertaking professionally accredited courses, such as computing, already learn internationally defined skills (IP3). Students also undertake the same online courses in different countries (ICT Sustainability).
Part of professional training is to learn Ethics, Teamwork and Professional Communication. I propose the New Colombo Plan could be expanded online, with students in different countries learning professional skills in multi-lingual online groups. Assessment could be by e-Portfolio and courses run jointly by Australian and other institutions.
In this way Australian students would learn to wok with their regional neighbours, fulfilling the aims of the New Colombo Plan. This would also provide a competitive advantage to attract overseas students who would learn in a culturally sensitive environment, designed to introduce them to an international working environment. This would be attractive compared to courses which simply try to package on-line the on-campus courses of a foreign university.
See paper for ICCSE 2014: Worthington, T. (2014). Chinese and Australian students learning to work together online: Proposal to Expand the New Colombo Plan to the Online Environment.