Are we still digging the hole we are in with China?
Prof Bob Birrell and Katharine Betts (Australian population Research institute Report (APRI), June 2020, wrote an excellent piece on “The crisis in overseas student industry: How should Government respond?” (John Menadue P&I 16Jun2020.
Since 2012, the government has encouraged the University to expand their enrolments from overseas and our education export industry has mushroomed.
According to APR report the Group of Eight (Go8) universities, the domestic enrolments were 87,939 (2012) & 85,529 (2018) a drop of 2,410; whilst overseas 30,320 (2012) & 62,423 (2018) an increase in 32,103 respectively.
In non-Go8 universities, domestic enrolments were 282,375 (2012) & 323,841 increased of 41,466 whilst overseas numbers grew from 72,820 (2010) to 126,557 (2018), a significant increase of 53,737 respectively.
The Go8 revenues raised from overseas were spent on research in order to raise its international prestige as a way to attract overseas enrolments & in particular bright Chinese students.
University bureaucracies including teaching staffs also benefited from increase in their salaries. It was clearly a winwin situation for all.
However, the money-spinning machine was rudely interrupted with the arrival of the covid-19 pandemic. Immigration statistics for students' visa revealed that by April 2020, only 80% of the expected 177,442 students were in Australia and the rest 20,% making up of 67,919 Chinese students were still in China, not able to return due to covid-19 travel restrictions.
In 2018-2019, the Australia government issued 142,098 high education visas off short and it is predicted that only a fraction will be issued in 2020-21 and overseas students' enrolment can fall by half in mid 2021. Under the circumstance, there will be serious implication and not just revenue shortages for all Australian universities.
Loss of revenue from students' fee alone estimated to be between $300 to $400 million to Go8 universities and not including other incomes from providing accommodation and associated services etc. The geopolitical stand-off between Australia-China started since 2016 when Australia suddenly copied USA blaming China left, right and centre through coercion with their mass media. The finger pointing insulting China by Australia
's Government proposal for an "independent enquiry" was a triggering factor, not the cause for China's action on barley & meat exports sagas. The warning to potential Chinese tourists and students coming to Australia because of racism was also handled badly. It is an addition dark cloud that would not assist economic recovery for the universities. Such vacancies in the university places are not readily taken up by other overseas students in particularly from the Indian sub-continent. The 67,000 Chinese students absent from Australia, each with at least $25,000 living expenses for 6 months will shave off $1.8 billion from our economy. We know many more billions of revenues are at risk if half of them stop choosing Australia for their university studies!
Recent geopolitical megaphonic criticism of our Foreign Minister Marise Payne blaming China giving misinformation is an unwise broad-brush non-specific accusation of cold war tactic. Anthony Pun, National President of CCCA wrote to SMH and South China Morning Post : “All that rhetoric & megaphone diplomacy is wasted when the great effort does not bear sweet grapes but getting the bitter melon instead. I can 't see how FM Payne's approach would benefit Australia's long-term national interest except keeping Australia-China relations at freezing point and perhaps a Congressional Medal of Honour for her efforts!?"
For our long-term national interest, we recommend our political leaders Morrison and Payne etc learn from former Ambassador to China Dennis Argall's constructive opinion piece in John Menadue P&I 16 June 2020): “We may be stuck in our bigotry. Urgent change on many fronts needed” and Mr Allan Behm's opinion piece : "Securitisation --Turning Problems into Threats" on 18 June 2020 in which he stated:
"Defending the nation against external armed aggression and protecting the nation against subversion is clearly fundamental to a secure nation. A strong defence capability and an effective internal security system are core policy responsibilities of government. But avoidance of aggression in the first place must be the primary objective. That is only achieved when national power and statecraft combine, and that is through diplomacy. Diplomacy is intrinsic to the nation’s security and without a constant, dedicated, focused and well-resourced foreign policy, a people’s and a nation’s security cannot be protected, promoted and sustained."
(Allan Behm heads the International and Security Affairs Program at The Australia Institute, Canberra)
Dr Anthony Pun, OAM, National President, CCCA; Dr Ka Sing Chua, National Senior Adviser, CCCA; and the National Chinese Australian Leadership Group
Robert Chong AM ,Maria Chan, Shirley Huang, Suellyn Lin, Kingsley Liu, James Leung, Lee Xj Li, Daphne Lowe,
Dickson Mak, Tony Pang, Tony Tang and Dr Y Y Yap.