Speech to the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India
- Minister for Education and Training
Simon Birmingham: Thank you for that welcome and the opportunity to join you here at this AAERI event to say a few words tonight in recognition of the important role that you all play as part of the Australian-Indian education partnership. Can I acknowledge my former ministerial colleague Andrew Robb? Robbie, it’s very nice to see you here, and I’m sure tonight at some stage I’ll get a chance to actually say hello to you. To other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen all, thank you very much for joining us in what is a very important recognition of the role you play.
But of course, the role you play in what is a much bigger and richer partnership between our two nations on the education and training landscape. And central, central to every element of a successful partnership in education and training is quality; quality of all aspects of the education delivered, the training undertaken, and the experience that students receive. That’s why at an Australian level we put such emphasis on ensuring that those who are registered to provide higher education or vocational education services and qualifications in Australia are of higher repute, must meet significant standards, do deliver recognised qualifications, continually face re-registration audits and assessments, to give us confidence for domestic students and international students alike that the qualifications people leave with are qualifications genuinely earned, and of course, skills and knowledge they leave with are skills and knowledge that will serve them well, well into the future.
We back up this sense of quality in terms of the educational offering when it comes to our international student experience, with a strong commitment to consumer protection. Through our ESOS Act, supporting overseas students and the application of insurance arrangements, we guarantee a level of consumer protection for those who choose to study in Australia, and in doing so provide a real safety net that helps to underpin, we hope, the quality of offering that Australian education and training services provide.
So we have strong and high quality content in terms of our education, strong and high quality consumer affairs protections. Of course, a lifestyle, an offering, a culture, a way of life that we believe is one of the best in the world that can provide a strong and high quality experience at a personal level for those who choose to study in Australia. But it’s important to us as well that of course those who represent Australia abroad meet the same consistent strong high quality standards that we expect at every other level. And the Association of Australian Education representatives in India plays an important role in ensuring that that quality that we believe is so important and we work so hard to ensure is maintained at every level in our domestic sense is equally reflected in the actions and activities of those who represent education and training institutions overseas.
Australian institutions are bound by a requirement to use only agents who are honest and of high quality. That’s why I was delighted to launch the Australian International Education and Training Agent Code of Ethics last year, funded and supported by our government, but importantly driven by the Australian- International Education Association of Australia and their chief executive officer, Phil Honeywood, who is known to many in this room and who is here today and whose work I pay tribute to in that regard. You and others in the sector have been important contributors to driving this code of ethics and at the forefront of efforts to help make sure that we continue to have quality in our education agents, underpinning all of the other aspects of our quality educational offering.
I’m very pleased the research and the information we have says that all of this work is paying dividends, that the latest data indicates that students who study in Australia, Indian students who study in Australia report more than 90 per cent satisfaction with their experience. That is from start to finish from engagement with education agents like yourselves, through enrolment, through their time studying, through the quality that they’re experiencing in Australia and all aspects of life there, that more than nine in 10 have very high regard in terms of the satisfaction that they have. And they go away of course then as the most critical ambassadors for our education and training product and to ensure that they step out around India and other parts of the world not just as ambassadors of a product, but also as ambassadors for Australia.
But more importantly than even that, they of course are symbols of the rich partnership that is helping both of our nations to achieve more and will strengthen and underpin our economic, our business, our cultural, our social, our diplomatic, our security, our political ties, for generations into the future with tens of thousands of Australians and Indians who have a much richer appreciation of each others’ country and culture and traditions and ways of life. Which is why we do not see this as simply a case of encouraging more Indian students to study in Australia, but we importantly value it and underpin it with commitment to two-way mobility and to driving more Australian students, encouraging more Australian students to come and undertake scholarships for our New Colombo Program, our Endeavour scholarships here in India, and to make sure that we actually get value in all aspects of this relationship, which will [indistinct] ties long, long into the future.
So can I again congratulate AAERI on your work, on your commitment to ensuring standards are upheld. I thank you for the very frank and detailed assessment of the half-dozen different issues that were raised before, not all of which are issues for the Australian Government. I’ll leave your associate membership arrangements to yourselves.
And if you find ways to advise us on how to better control the media, well, you will be the best friends and advisors of not just politicians in Australia but of course politicians in India and every other democratic country around the world.
But in all seriousness, I do take on your point about the high quality of our TAFE providers and our vocational providers overall, and the desire to see a continued engagement there as of course we support them to equally engage in building and enhancing capability of training providers here and India as well. We’re proud of what Australia has achieved, achieved in partnership with people such as yourselves. We’re committed to make sure we keep doing that in the future, that we seize the opportunities that are available, and of course, that’s demonstrated by the scale of the delegation of Australian education and training providers who are here, and indeed by the fact that our Prime Minister will be addressing tonight’s dinner and celebrations on the extent of [indistinct] partnership. So thank you once again. Congratulations on your 20 plus years now, and all the best for the future.