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Australia “dumb blonde” of International Education

Australia “dumb blonde” of International Education

The dumb blonde of international education. THE new International Students Strategy for Australia released on Friday included much sensible sentiment. But unfortunately it failed to address the crucial challenge to re-brand Australia as a premium education destination.

This won’t be easy. Only recently British branding expert Simon Anholt labelled Australia the world’s “dumb blonde”. It was telling that he chose a conference on international education in Sydney to deliver his “attractive but shallow” blow to the national ego.

Few industries are more vulnerable to such perceptions than the $18 billion education export sector, especially as the strengthening dollar brings the cost of an Australian tertiary qualification to within par of our main competitors, the US and Britain.

But while most exporters are realistically lamenting the dollar’s rise, a robust, resilient Australian economy represents an opportunity the education sector must grab. Education exports must be taken as seriously as tourism, with a government-backed global campaign to match. And we need to do so decisively now or face a 20 per cent slump in commencing enrolments by as early as next year and a $2bn hole in returns.

All well and good, but begs the questions, why weren’t such actions taken earlier by the industry, especially when Australia was not the first choice for the best students? Further, for Australia to be an attractive destination it must be competitive compared with US, UK and Europe, i.e. not only be a very good place to live and work while studying, but potentially for permanent residency, if skills are needed. However, the domestic “immigration and population” debate precludes any sensible policy or discussion, especially when outcomes of immigration are generally seen as negative, and unwelcomed, by Australians.


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