The Australian higher education sector is going through a challenging time, not just because of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, but also because of the active and enduring ‘money focussed approach’ to international education. The urgency of a new educational approach that considers the differing needs and cultures of international students has never been so vital.
Sydney Metropolitan Institute of Technology (Sydney Met) is an Australian higher education provider in Sydney, Australia. Sydney Met was established in recognition of the barriers international students face upon embarking to further their education and quality of life in Australia. Sydney Met has recognised that many higher educational providers fail to consider the varying cultures and values of international students.
Thus, Sydney Met strives to deliver inter-cultural support, something that is so vital in Australia’s multicultural environment. Sydney Met’s values and reputation derive from a strong foundation of academics and scholars who understand the educational landscape of Australia inside-out. Sydney Met founders have seen, over many years of studying and teaching students at Australia’s top universities, the inequities faced by international students that bar their access to a meaningful education in Australia. This includes but is not limited to, language barriers, differing cultures and lack of tailored support. These are the exact facets which Sydney Met aims to address so that international students, like homegrown Australians, can reap the benefits of higher education that Australia can offer.
Ms Anjana Singh Shrestha, Director of Sydney Met said, “Sydney Met is a higher education institute that is deeply committed to transform the learning approach and experience of multicultural learners and make a difference”.
Professor Robin Kramar, PEO of Sydney Met added; “Sydney Met responds precisely to the long running issues embedded in higher education including: a lack of student support; courses that are too theoretical and not in touch with industry needs; a western style of teaching and learning that overseas students find it difficult to connect with.”
Sydney Met takes international students seriously and treats them fairly. Students are placed at the centre of Sydney Met’s learning and support decision making process. The focus remains on understanding student’s diverse needs, cultures and expectations. Through this understanding Sydney Met designs and delivers teaching that enables rewarding and meaningful outcomes for a diversity of students. SydneyMet’s student support prioritises understanding and being responsive to the diverse cultures of students. Sydney Met is strongly against a one size fits all approach as each student has a diverse background that needs to be catered for.
Sydney Met is approved by the Australian government agency, TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency) and offers a ‘Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship)’ under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).
As Peter Hurley writes in The Conversation (April 17, 2020), Australian universities could lose $19 billion in the next 3 years. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that every $1 lost in university tuition fees, there is another $1.15 lost in the broader economy due to international student spending. This means the Australian economy could lose more than $40 billion by 2023 because of reduced numbers of higher education international students.
In all these depressing forecasts, the dominant narrative has been to contain the virus, open the border and welcome international students, thereby, reviving and enriching the Australian economy: this is precisely a ‘money focussed approach’ where international students are seen as the source of money, or ‘cash cows’ as ABC TV documented in 2019.
Diverse and changing student needs and expectations are not considered. No wonder why international students (and their parents), educational activists, and critical scholars are distraught.
Jonathan Howes, Chair of Sydney Met’s Governing Council responded to the question of economic loss due to the COVID-19 impact on Australian educational sector by saying; “Australian education is about the quality of learning environment and student satisfaction combined with appropriate support and services. It is also the opportunity for students to gain knowledge, skills and application of knowledge and skills, and students becoming better thinkers and doers, …it should not be about how much money is to be made or lost”.
Sydney Met’s first degree offering is a Bachelor of Business with a focus on Entrepreneurship. The Course is designed to prepare students for exciting future opportunities.
“We want our graduates to be capable of more than just fitting into someone else’s structure: we want to see them equipped to create their own future.” Emeritus Professor David Wilmoth Chair of Sydney Met Academic Board,
Professor Wilmoth added: “Our course is designed to give students the confidence and skills to try new things, to identify and take hold of opportunities in the world of business. Where other Business courses might focus on technical skills, at Sydney Met we are also committed to producing graduates who develop practical skills, take initiative and lead.”
Despite the extraordinary challenges, the fact there are still a significant number of students wanting to come to Australia from Nepal, China, Indi and many other countries. This is a testament to how Australia remains an attractive prospect for many international students. If the international education sector can weather the storm of COVID-19 in 2021, better times await in 2022 and beyond. Yet, what remains to be a critical challenge for international students (and their parents) is to make an informed choice of where to study, what to study and why.
Students must choose the course and institution that takes them as seriously as they deserve. This means, prospective students must explore carefully, not just courses, institutions, costs, people, etc, but also consider the questions of how courses are taught, who teaches them, what support and services are available, and how to make a decision that can transform their life and career.
Crises such as COVID-19 will come and go, but the crisis of the ‘money-focussed approach’ to education remains. International students must take responsibility to respond to this enduring crisis. Students must choose the course and institution that takes them as seriously as they deserve. This means, prospective students must explore carefully, not just courses, institutions, costs, people, etc, but also consider the questions of how courses are taught, who teaches them, what support and services are available, and how to make a decision that can transform their life and career. Students must ensure good fit between what they want to learn and what they will be taught. In this pursuit, Sydney Met offers education that makes a difference, distinguished by academic quality, equitable services and social impacts. Sydney Met deserves serious attention from students determined to succeed in a new cultural and learning environment (www.sydneymet.edu.au).
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