The annual forum, organized by the International Education Association of Australia, saw a large participation from delegates and speakers from Australia and the world, as they deep-dived into the current issues and challenges in transnational education.
Speaking on behalf of the Australia’s Department of Education, Sophie Fisher, director for Policy & Collaboration, highlighted the significance of TNE to Australia across the broad domains of supporting the country’s skills shortages, engaging with the region and key partner countries, and strengthening Australia’s global reputation.
“The early travel by the prime minister, foreign minister, and other members of government has really shown that our region is increasingly important to Australia,” Fisher said, as she re-iterated the government’s commitment to TNE.
“TNE is an important way of building those people-to-people links and supporting Australia’s international engagement.”
She also highlighted multilateral and bilateral engagements regarding “best practice qualifications recognition”, pointing to Australia-India Qualifications Recognition Framework, and Australia-Vietnam Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership as specific examples.
“When we grow, diversify, and use innovative TNE models, it reinforces Australia’s reputation as a global leader in education delivery,” she said.
A key lesson from Covid-19 was identifying positive student experience both on- and offshore, Fisher noted, adding, “It’s important that we are delivering quality education, no matter what the delivery model.”
Special project lead in international education at Austrade, Eliza Chui, while highlighting the key aspects of Austrade’s TNE Pathway Partnership Project, mentioned that the demand for international education had “not diminished” despite the setbacks of the last two and a half years, but rather it was “growing”.
“China has a 400-500 million [strong] middle class, India with a 70 million middle class, Indonesia with a 50 million middle class, and Vietnam which would have a middle class of over 36 million by 2030 — these are the people who would send their kids overseas to study, for a brighter future,” she posited.
“India presents a significant opportunity for TNE”
“People’s perception has changed and [students] are willing to go to new models, particularly if its more cost effective,” she said of online delivery, as Australia has moved from “emergency online to quality online”.
Australia’s trade envoys to India and Indonesia also shared their perspectives.
“India presents a significant opportunity for TNE,” Monica Kennedy, senior trade and investment commissioner, Austrade, in Mumbai, said.
“There is an abundance of talent here and we are working really hard with both the department of Home Affairs and the department of Education to make sure that we are sending the right messages to the students, so that our institutions back in Australia are receiving the very best quality [of students] that’s available here.
“With India, there is an incredible alignment of stars,” she said, highlighting the increasingly growing interest of both countries in collaborating.
“The abundance of young talent and ambition is something that is quite tangible here in India,” Kennedy noted.
Rod Commerford, Australia’s Trade and Investment Commissioner to Jakarta, told the gathering that the recent Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement guarantees VET providers “can own up to 67% stake in investments in Indonesia”.
“It also locks in future liberalization for Australian universities looking to set up in Indonesia,” he said.
He reminded that since regulation changes in 2018, foreign universities are permitted to set up campuses in Indonesia.
“It’s very pleasing to see that the first to do so, is an Australian university in Monash, which opened its campus late last year. There is also interest from universities in Europe and the US who are currently exploring their opportunities in Indonesia,” he noted.
There are a “number of large Indonesian tech unicorns looking at Australia to source talent and that presents a real opportunity for partnerships”, Commerford continued.
He said that going forward, there was a “real growth opportunity in TNE” with Indonesia, despite the fact that it was a very “price-sensitive” market.
Fiona Letos, director, International Education & Study Melbourne within Global Victoria spoke about how the Victorian government is working with education providers and edtech companies to harness opportunities in key international markets, through its 23 trade and investment offices globally.
Victoria is the only study destination “in Australia and globally” that has “delivered government supported study hubs on scale”, she said – namely in Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh city, in addition to hybrid hubs across South Asia.
“We recognize that the future of TNE is all about flexibility, choice, and being adaptable to rapidly changing student preferences,” she told delegates.
“So we are really looking at continuing to deliver programs and support to Victorian providers and edtech companies, that enable [them] to be adaptable, move quickly, and seize those opportunities in overseas markets.”
“There are a lot more students who need access to good quality international education, who may not want to come to our countries”
This year was the first time in three years the annual forum was held in person.
“The pandemic has taught us that the world is much smaller and there are a lot more students who need access to good quality international education, who may not want to come to our countries, so we need to go to them, Caryn Nery, IEAA’s TNE Network convenor and director of TNE Partnerships at Victoria University, highlighted.
“There are more communities to serve, there is more industry to engage with, and more outcomes for our graduates that we need to think about,” she concluded.