This podcast is special for 2 reasons:
- it’s my first interview episode ever on Manoj Speaks!
- it’s related to the Australian international education sector, which I am passionate about
Because of the COVID19 outbreak, universities & other educational institutes across Australia shut. Many of the international students in the country lost their casual jobs. The government got busy managing the pandemic, but a section of the society saw the rules as overly strict for temporary residents like overseas students & tourists.
Overseas students were complaining of lack of sufficient information from the government & that their financial situation wasn’t being accounted for when government helped out their citizens & permanent residents. The government’s communication to the higher education sector was far from ideal either & this how it sounded to the overseas students:
If you don’t have money, that’s really your problem. We can’t be handing money out to you as our priority is our own citizens & the most vulnerable. As per student visa rules, you must have a year’s worth of living expense money available. Use that till the pandemic is over or consider cashing out your superannuation. If you don’t have the money, then you are in breach of your visa conditions and perhaps consider going back home.
Going back to their home overseas wasn’t an option for many, since there were no more flights flying. Others stayed back as they felt the lockdowns would be a short one.
International students facing homelessness and hunger due to coronavirus https://t.co/VYr4imHPqW— ABC News (@abcnews) May 16, 2020
The Twitter posts from many people expressing their solidarity with the government also shocked me. They were asking the students to go back home and not ask for money! I felt sad because these overseas students are humans also in anxiety and need guidance during such a sudden & volatile time. Why does the government make statements like “our citizens are more important“.
Besides the human value, the market value of international students to Australia is big. Check out the stats from Austrade:
Australia’s onshore international education sector is forecast to grow from 650,000 enrolments today to 940,000 by 2025 (which equates to a compounding annual growth rate of 3.8 per cent).
The international education sector’s contribution to export earnings is expected to almost double to in excess of $33 billion by 2025.
The top eight source markets for onshore international learner enrolments across all sectors in 2025 are expected to be China, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, Malaysia, Brazil and South Korea. Much of the growth in onshore learner enrolments will be driven by Asia – in particular China, India, Nepal, Vietnam and Thailand.
So while researching the issue more & listening to conversations between government officials, university heads, student bodies etc, I came across Devendra Singh on Twitter.
Devendra is the National Representative at Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations representing 450,000 students in the country & also an Ambassador for Study in Australia initiative. Like myself, he was also an overseas student of Australia before being a resident.
I contacted him in Mid-April 2020 and asked him if we could have a conversation around the issues facing overseas students and he readily agreed. Below is the talk!
Note: Sorry for the slightly bad audio from my end. Didn’t have a podcasting microphone then 🙂
Here is a clip from the discussion: