Indian student attacks: Australia dangerously close to attracting sanctions

June 3rd, 2009 - 3:20 pm ICT by ANI  

Kevin Rudd Melbourne, June 3 (ANI): Australia is dangerously close to risking sanctions that can cause a collapse in the overseas student market after authorities ignored protests from foreign diplomats about the safety of their nationals, an expert has warned.

Monash University Professor Chris Nyland said yesterday foreign governments were actively intervening to protect their students here.

Professor Nyland, who has been researching a book on international student security with the University of Melbourne’s Simon Marginson for the past five years, was quoted by The Australian as saying that Australia needed to respond to the crisis with more than spin if it wished to avoid further suffering to students and a collapse within its 15.5 billion dollars overseas student industry.

Daryl Le Grew, Universities Australia’s spokesman on international affairs, agreed, telling the HES yesterday the furore was a “wake-up call” for universities.

“We need to respond with more than spin. We need to acknowledge there’s a problem,” Professor Le Grew said. “We need to do much more to support and care for students, and if we can’t do that it (the market) will dissolve.”

Professor Nyland said Australia faced potentially crippling sanctions from the Chinese and Indian governments over student safety.

The crisis comes as Australian authorities face a political vacuum in liaising with overseas students since the sector lost confidence in the peak National Liaison Committee, which had been championing the student safety issue.

In the highly leveraged and concentrated $15.5 billion Australian overseas student market, about 42per cent of the country’s 414,446 overseas students as of March were from China and India.

Widespread media coverage of the attacks in India - where one Hindi paper falsely reported 20 students had been killed - has prompted a flurry of diplomatic activity by Australian political leaders and vice-chancellors.

Kevin Rudd spoke to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh last Friday, reassuring him that discrimination and victimisation of overseas students would not be tolerated. Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard also announced a round table on overseas student welfare aimed at deciding what more needs to be done “to promote and protect” Australia’s reputation as a safe destination for quality teaching and research.

Professor Le Grew said deputy vice-chancellors international would meet core ambassadors in Canberra tomorrow after academics met to discuss student safety.

A new survey carried out at nine universities as part of the Nyland-Marginson book project backed official data that showed more than 80 per cent of overseas students were happy with their experience in Australia. (ANI)

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