The three big issues for international students
International education is complicated and heavily regulated at any time – but during the current COVID-19 period a more sensible regime was imposed across the country. Certain regulations were relaxed in an attempt at simplification – but are slowly being reinstated. The three key issues relate to the number of work hours permitted each fortnight; the return to face to face classes (F2F); and the percentage of study permitted to remain on line while on shore.
Forty (40) hour limit on work each fortnight
Currently, and throughout the COVID-19 period, students are permitted to work without limitation. Much of this was to do with the labour shortage throughout the country – but flagged as a means of providing financial support to international students.
The Australian Government has announced a return to the 40 hours a fortnight regulation in mid-2023.
It would have been a wiser idea to expand the hours to 60. The balance between work and study is acknowledged but the resource of international students is invaluable and the opportunities offered are essential. My own institution has seen little, if any variation, in student satisfaction or grade distribution during the relaxed regulation period.
Return to F2F
During COVID-19 students and institutions were instructed to move to online studies. Some did it very well, others not so. Student surveys throughout the period (including the DEST QILT survey) highlighted that many private providers operated effectively and efficiently – many high profile universities on the other had did poorly. Much had to do with the investment in technology and the focus on teaching rather than research.
The Australian Government Regulator (TEQSA) is proposing a return to face to face teaching and learning in mid-2023 – where it is safe and practical to do so. Much of this desire is driven by the poor level of online delivery by some institutions and the desire to re-open facilities and retail outlets on campuses.
My own institution has seen little if any variation in student satisfaction or grade distribution during the relaxed regulation period. Further, in the most current student survey relating to a return to campus (T3, 2022) – 96% of students have indicated a preference to stay on line.
Percentage (%) of study permitted on line when onshore
Pre COVID the limit (or percentage) on students doing online while on shore was 30%. During COVID-19 this was suspended and students were able to do 100% of their study on line.
The Australian Government is now considering a percentage of study permitted in this on line mode.
My own institution has seen little if any variation in student satisfaction or grade distribution during the relaxed regulation period. If this unnecessary restriction is put in place at some time during 2023 - hopefully a percentage of at least 50% is seen as appropriate (in line with Canada and the UK). In reality it should be left to the individual institution to determine what is best for its students.
Careful and appropriate consideration
These three issues are fundamental to international education and should be left to the individual provider to consider and implement. Blanket modelling is both troublesome and inappropriate. The very notion that somehow tight regulation is needed in the transition out of COVID-19 (which by the way is still with us) is erroneous and somewhat arrogant.
Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President (Academic) at Group Colleges Australia.