Sector fail in explaining international ed

When a reporter asked Jason Clare if international student numbers came up in Labor Party research he replied, “buggered if I know mate, I don’t look at focus groups.”

But party comrades who do will be interested in a survey by the Australia-China Relations Institute (at UTS) which demonstrates why it is smart politics for the government to talk about student housing and announce it is cutting international enrolments.

For a start, 34 per cent of people surveyed “strongly agree” that buyers from China drive up house prices and 24 per cent think Chinese investors “negatively affected” residential rentals.

Overall, the survey demonstrates ordinary Australians are pragmatic, banking on the benefits of engaging with China in education, while recognising the risk. Thus 68 per cent of those surveyed consider Chinese students provide Australia with a big economic benefit and two thirds are ok with research ties. But 73 per cent think universities depend on them too much.

And after a generation of furphies, 35 per cent of survey responders still think international students from China “potentially” reduce the quality of university education and nearly half have a “concern” that their presence means there are fewer places for locals. Plus just under half think China ties can compromise freedom of speech on campus.

It all demonstrates the work universities should have done to explain international students as an unalloyed good for all Australians – and didn’t.



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