In 2009, Universities Australia produced a report, The Nature of International Education in Australian Universities and its Benefits1, which covered the many economic and non-economic benefits of international engagement. OECD data found that 19.7% of undergraduate students, and 19.1% of postgraduate research students, in Australian universities in 2006 were international students. The Department of Education, Employment and Work Relations 2007 finance data showed that Australian universities earned $2.6 billion from international student fees, making education the third largest industry, which generates 126,240 jobs. Beyond economics, the ability of Australian researchers to collaborate internationally in order to resolve some of Australia's most pressing issues is immeasurably important. The ability to access world-class infrastructure and researchers reduces double spending and develops Australian research standards, respectively. Furthermore, by educating the best and brightest international students, such as ANU graduate and Indonesian Minister for Trade, Mari Pangestu, international collaboration encourages greater cooperation between nations.
The lack of funding available to Australian researchers and proximity to international collaborators creates an artificial barrier to possible research collaborations. Bureaucratic issues with visas and geographic isolation are further real barriers to successful international research engagement. The Australian government has taken a number of important initial steps to develop Australia's international engagement in research and this inquiry provides an excellent opportunity to develop a more strategic and coordinated approach to Australia's involvement in international research collaborations. Australian researchers need to be able to access the greatest minds overseas, but also entice those same researchers to Australia in order to collaborate on issues of national importance.
1Universities Australia, The Nature of International Education in Australian Universities and its Benefits, September 2009
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