Australia could potentially provide some of the best study abroad programs world wide – we’re a politically and socially stable country with a thriving economy, many good universities and many great opportunities for young people. So why are Australian universities losing international students if it’s such big business? The world is fast moving forward into what has been coined the Asian Century where Asian countries such as India, China, Hong Kong, Singapore etc. become the powerhouses for education, innovation, media and output in general. One the reasons Australia is beginning to lose international students is because more countries like Singapore and Hong Kong are investing more money into their tertiary institutions which can provide students with a degree that’s closer to home.
Unfortunately there are also much darker reasons as to why Australia is losing international students. Following the race fuelled violence towards Indian university students in Melbourne 2009, many international students left Australia in fear leaving people to believe that Australian’s can often be parochial (narrow minded) and ethnocentric (one’s own group is superior.) Peter Kell & Gillian Vogl’s paper International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes suggests another of the main issues that international students face are language barriers and understanding Australian colloquialisms: “Australian English has been depicted as featuring informality, abbreviated expressions, rhyming slang as well as descriptive similes.” Learning Australian English takes time and practice and often foreign students find it hard to converse with Australian people as they are often impatient and can appear “…ambivalent, distant and disinterested in international students and foreigners in general” (Kell & Vogl pg. 8 2006) This again lends itself to the idea of Australian’s being parochial and ethnocentric giving Australia a scarred reputation.
Australia is a lucky and country, we’re not even 200 years old and considered one of the Western super powers. We’ve been built on the foundations of migration and we should be opening our doors to cultural homogeneity and multiculturalism. Embracing the international community through the means of education is an enlightening and progressive step forward for Australia as well as economically and culturally beneficial.
Citizens of Australia, its time to adopt a more cosmopolitan approach and become global citizens, embracing and valuing diversity and difference and keeping an open mind.
International students come here not to take anything away from our culture, but to contribute to it. And that should be welcomed.