Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Time to Pivot Australian International Higher Education

The Australian newspaper and ABC TV rarely agree on anything, but this week both warned of problems with Australian university support of international students. This comes with the end of increasing enrollments from China and moves to recruit more from India.

Tim Dodd  wrote:
"The highly lucrative six-year boom in Chinese students is over.

Australian universities now are focusing on the less-developed Indian market to meet budget expectations, exposing them to the risk of enrolling low-quality students with poor English. ..."

From: "End of China boom roils universities", The Australian, 8 May 2019
 "... The number of Chinese students enrolled in Australian higher education ... is flattening off, sending universities on a feverish quest to find new students from India ... But rapid growth poses risks if it is accompanied by a fall in student standards ..." 

From "There’s risk in rush to new overseas markets", The Australian, 8 May 2019
ABC TV reported: 
"Teaching staff say that universities are risking their reputations by taking on students who are not capable of advanced levels of learning." 
From: Cash Cows, ABC TV, 6 May 2019
In response to the ABC, an industry body, the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA), pointed out stricter government controls had been introduced. This included improvements in English language standards. However, these were only introduced eighteen months ago, so the changes would not yet be reflected in the current student body.

Where there are violations of Australian law and academic standards, I suggest these should be dealt with by suspensions, and, where necessary, criminal prosecution. However, Australian universities and academics can offer new forms of learning, and supporting international students in new ways. This can be done with online and blended learning, incorporating integrated progressive assessment, to ensure students do the required work, on time and to the required standard.

IEAA pointed out that universities have introduced programs alongside their main courses of study, to improve language proficiency. However, I suggest we can also take advantage of technology, to test students early in each course, to see they have the required language, and other skills. Special assistance can be offered, or if necessary, the student removed from a course early. Assessment can move away from a few large tests, where students are tempted to cheat. Students can be issued with digitally certified qualifications, as they progress through their studies, so they are rewarded for good work.

I will be discussing some ways to do this in a presentation "Mobile Learning with Micro-Credentials for International Students", at EduTECH in Sydney, 4 pm 6 June, and the next day in round-table discussions.

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