Encourage international students to study skill shortage courses and in regional locations, says new report

International student fees contributed more than a fifth of overall university funding.

The Australian federal government has released the Australian Universities Accord Final Report, which is considered by experts the biggest review of the sector in decades.

The report has recommended reforms to build a better and fairer higher education system that may result in major funding changes to Australian universities.

Minister for Education Jason Clare said in a statement that the Australian Universities Accord has recommended how to reform higher education over the next decade and beyond.

“Under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, the number of Australians finishing high school jumped from around 40 per cent to almost 80 per cent. That was nation changing. The Accord says that in the years ahead, we will need 80 per cent of the workforce to not just finish high school, we will need them to finish TAFE or university as well.”

- Advertisement -

In 2022, Australian higher education providers enrolled almost 450,000 international fee-paying (more than a quarter of total enrolments), with around 120,000 of these studying Australian higher education courses from outside Australia.

International student fees contributed more than a fifth of overall university funding. However, the report recommends changes to the way universities recruit international students.

Instead of Australian universities and institutions having free reign to recruit, they would be given guidance on diversifying the countries they recruit from to lessen shocks from changes overseas.

Further, the report also proposes higher standards for English language proficiency.

“Providers need to apply rigorous testing and admission benchmarks to ensure international students have the appropriate English language level to succeed in the classroom and beyond, and provide tailored support where required.”

In addition, as many international students seek a migration pathway, the report recommends that in line with the Australian Government’s Migration Strategy goal for a better targeted system “the tertiary education sector should encourage these students to study courses linked to Australian skill shortages and to study in regional locations.”

The report observes that failing to increase student numbers would “do lasting damage to Australia’s prospects of national economic success.”

“Failure to increase student numbers to meet these needs could do lasting damage to Australia’s prospects of national economic success. While our tertiary attainment rates are reasonably strong by world standards, other comparable nations are doing considerably better.”

- Advertisement -

The report recommended “TEQSA take an evidence-based approach to ensure that providers have appropriate risk management strategies for international education to issues
including managing demand volatility, course concentrations and the quality of the student
experience, and access and availability of affordable housing.”

Image: Tertiary attainment by OECD country, proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds (%), 2022.

The report contains 47 recommendations and targets to reform higher education and set it up for the next decade and beyond.

The Report recommends that at least 80 per cent of the workforce will need a VET or university qualification by 2050. Currently, it sits at 60 per cent.

The Report says, “raising tertiary education attainment to these levels will not be easy. It can only be achieved by making the higher education system far more equitable.”

That means more Australians from the outer suburbs, the regions, disadvantaged backgrounds and more Indigenous Australians going to university. 

It also finds that the barriers between VET and higher education need to be broken down to ensure a more seamless and integrated tertiary education system.

Minister Clare added:

“The Accord will help to drive this change. It will help us build a better and fairer education system where no one is held back, and no one is left behind…This is a plan not for one budget, but a blueprint for the next decade and beyond.”

The Report recommends ambitious targets, including:

  • increasing the tertiary education attainment rate from 60 per cent to at least 80 per cent of Australians in our workforce by 2050
  • increasing the proportion of university educated Australians aged 25 to 34 years from 45 per cent to 55 per cent by 2050, and
  • increasing the number of 25- to 34-year-olds with a tertiary level vocational or technical qualification to 40 per cent by 2050.

The Universities Accord is the product of 12-months’ work by an expert review panel chaired by Professor Mary O’Kane AC and informed by 820 public submissions and 180 meetings with stakeholders.

Lat year in June, the Accord panel delivered its interim report and the Albanese government immediately acted on all four interim recommendations.

The final report proposes that implementation of the recommendations be staged. The federal government, amidst budgetary constraints, is now considering the Report’s recommendations that can be viewed here.

Support Our Journalism

Global Indian Diaspora needs fair, non-hyphenated, and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. The Australia Today – with exceptional reporters, columnists, and editors – is doing just that. Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America, or India you can take a paid subscription by clicking Patreon. Buy an annual ‘The Australia Today Membership’ to support independent journalism and get special benefits.