AEI Australian Education International: Educational diplomacy scapegoat?
At a function a week or so ago which launched a new Soft Power and Public Diplomacy project at Macquarie University, I discovered that the international promotion and marketing function of Australia Education International was to be transferred, with little fanfare, to Austrade.
Why is this significant? Or even interesting?
AEI had a busy year last year. Indian students crisis. Private international school scandals and closures. AEI’s handling of these crises may not have been optimal. In a blog post last year, I was somewhat critical of its efforts at public diplomacy in a year which saw Australia’s lucrative education industry lurch from one crisis to the next…
..Yet it would be overly simplistic to suggest that this collapse was only of AEI’s making. The systemic problems which revealed themselves during last year’s imbroglios require more than a transfer of oversight from one bureaucracy to another. As Michael Wesley argued in his policy brief about the international student crisis, Australia’s poisoned alumni:
Education institutions need to be subjected to much greater oversight of quality, affordability, value for money, and provision of student welfare. Measures to address the inequality of treatment and entitlements between domestic and international students should be addressed. Ombudsmen should be established and provided with real power to investigate and make recommendations. Stricter oversight of overseas student recruitment, working conditions, and foreign student integration measures is needed.
AEI, Austrade, IDP, university sector have all been remiss by focussing upon sales, personal interest etc. at the expense of good marketing i.e. providing quality education through what the “user” specifies (students, families, employers, governments, sponsors etc.)…. as taught in university marketing departments…. From personal experience one is yet to be convinced that these organisations’ work in the international education sector is no more than public sector “job shops” providing international travel opportunities…. Australian universities and TAFEs’ travel and accommodation expenses come in at round $AUD300 million per year, and who are the major recipients for marketing services again in the millions on top of this figure? AEI and Austrade…..
Further, one would think that one of Australia’s national symbols the emu should be replaced by the ostrich? Has no one in media, education sector or society made the linkage between Australia’s politicans playing the race card and hard line attitudes toward foreigners whether they be refugees, immigrants, international students etc. in the past ten years and issues that have emerged?
For all intents and purposes one could not blame Asia for thinking that a neo “white Australia” policy has been introduced as all focus has been upon Asians whether that be moslems from west Asia or Indians from the sub continent, or Chinese etc. while not a single Brit or European has ever been accused of rorting study or immigration visas, buying up property etc.?