English Australia Conference

Speech
  • Minister for Education

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I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

I’d like to acknowledge Brett Blacker and thank English Australia for the invitation to speak at the closing of your conference today.

Australia’s world-class international education sector contributed more than $35 billion to the Australian economy last year, an increase of 16.4 per cent on 2017.

More than 690,000 international students were in Australia on a student visa, an increase of 11 per cent.

That, of course, was in addition to the large percentage of your students who are here on short term visas. These students come from nearly two hundred different countries.

We have a vibrant, high-performing international education sector so it’s hardly surprising that the British-based Centre for Global Higher Education predicts Australia will leapfrog the UK to become the world’s second most popular destination for international students this year.

The success of the sector is reflected in the results of the 2018 international student survey.

We surveyed 80,000 international students and 89 per cent said they were satisfied with their experience in Australia.

Students reported high levels of satisfaction with their learning experience, and with the support received both on arrival and while studying.

Central to the success of our international students is the high quality of our English language instruction.

Because if a student can speak English well they will be set up to succeed, and for the vast majority that stay for more learning, strong English skills will help them integrate into our schools and communities.

So thank you to everyone here today, and who works in the sector, for the contribution that you make to teaching the English language.

Last year, there were nearly 180,000 students in English language colleges, schools and vocational institutes across Australia – contributing nearly $2.4 billion to our economy.

Two-thirds of English language students on a student visa go on to further study, and one in five students who start a higher education course come directly from an English language course.

Everyone in this room would agree that we have a duty of care to our international students and their families.

The people in this room honour that duty of care with the professionalism you bring to your jobs, the high quality of teaching that you deliver and the support you provide to students that goes above and beyond the call of duty.

So thank you for that.

The Morrison Government supports the English language training industry to honour that duty in many ways.

Our Government honours that duty of care through direct support for the sector.

Our Government provides $3 million a year through the Enabling Growth and Innovation program to support a range of projects.

We have provided $103,906 to English Australia to support the development of national surveys of English language providers in 2019 and 2020.

The National ELICOS Market Report, produced by English Australia, provides a comprehensive picture of English language student trends across each of your major markets.

The Government also provides $85,800 to support English Australia’s biennial English Language Barometer, which reports on the satisfaction of your students across a range of measures, providing valuable information about the views and experiences of students.

Our Government is also honouring our duty of care to international students and their families by ensuring the integrity of the English language requirements to access higher education.

In February 2019, I wrote to all higher education providers about the need for a rigorous approach to ensure international students have appropriate English language skills – and that we support students with their language needs.

I wrote to TEQSA – the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency – asking them to increase scrutiny on all providers’ compliance with English language standards.

I also asked that TEQSA provide further guidance to universities on this.

We will take action where providers do not meet standards for English language for international students.

The Education Services for Overseas Students Regulations 2019 (ESOS Regulations) have been remade to commence from October 2019. The ESOS Regulations put in place new provisions for the collection of details from providers on how students have met English language requirements for their student visa.

This will enable regulators to better monitor providers’ assessment and evidence practices for visa purposes.

TEQSA has also commenced a project to ensure compliance with English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) Standards 2018.

The ELICOS Reaccreditation Project will ensure ELICOS providers and their courses are compliant with the strengthened Standards that came into effect on 1 January 2018.

A focus of this project will be assessment outcomes of courses provided under a direct entry arrangement to a tertiary education course.

TEQSA is also developing comprehensive guidance for the sector to ensure they understand the requirement to maintain appropriate minimum English language requirements, ensure waivers are justified and that they have systematic analysis in place to identify cohorts at risk of poor performance with adequate oversight by governing bodies.

Where risks are identified, admissions policy settings and student support services should be refined to mitigate these risks and ensure students are equipped to succeed.

Our Government honours our duty of care to international students and their families by strengthening access to mental health support for international students.

My Department is working with providers to identify strategies and best practice so we can better support the mental health needs of international students.

I have also written to every vice-chancellor and asked for details about the support being provided to international students at their institution.

The Morrison Government is prioritising better mental health for all Australians, with a record $5.3 billion invested in mental health.

Our Government has invested $50,000 in providing practical mental health training to 400 English language teachers to support international students.

We have also provided $100,000 to fund the development of an engagement and leadership program to help international students support each other to address mental health issues.

Universities Australia has received $90,000 from the Morrison Government to evaluate the usefulness of pre-departure information for international students which will help prospective students better prepare for studying here.

I encourage the sector to continue its focus on the mental health of our international students.

Our Government honours our duty of care to international students and their families by providing a range of educational opportunities.

One of these opportunities is for international students to study outside of our capital cities.

Austrade is responsible for promoting and marketing Australia’s international education to a global audience using education specialists, in more than 35 key markets across 117 locations.

The ‘Study In Australia’ platform attracts more than three million visitors every year and one of its key features is promoting opportunities to study in regional Australia.

Last year, Austrade trialled an integrated social media campaign, called #gobeyond, to grow awareness of destinations beyond Sydney and Melbourne.

The #gobeyond campaign was delivered in close cooperation with states and territories and reached more than 12.8 million prospective students – demonstrating the value of a Team Australia approach.

Austrade’s ‘Australia Future Unlimited Education Expos’ reached more than 500,000 prospective students last year in markets as diverse as Mongolia, Japan and Colombia.

These events are part of broader, integrated digital marketing campaigns that have been delivered across the globe.

Attracting international students to regional Australia is not a zero-sum game.

Our regional universities offer a lower cost of living, smaller class sizes, and a different experience of Australia.

Attracting more international students to study in regional Australia will be good for the students, good for the regional economies and good for the sector.

Our Government created the Destination Australia grants program to attract more international students to study outside of our capital cities.

The $94 million Destination Australia program will provide 4,720 scholarships of up to $15,000 a year for domestic and international students to study at a regional higher education or vocational training provider.

We are providing a coordinated, practical, focused and strategic oversight of this enormously important sector to ensure its reputation and financial health into the future.

Attracting more students, both Australian and international, to study in the regions is part of the Morrison Government’s focus on regional higher education.

In conclusion, the Morrison Government has a comprehensive agenda to re-shape the higher education architecture in Australia.

My commitment to you is our Government will actively seek to engage with the sector to enhance our shared interests.

Government and the English language sector will need to be agile to adapt to the demands of a future economy while ensuring the delivery of world-class education.

We all want a sustainable and growing system that produces successful graduates.

Put simply, we want every student – whether they’re from Melbourne, Moree or Moscow – to achieve more from what they learn.

ENDS

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