Universities Australia has adopted a philosophy of a ‘third wave’ approach to international education, which emphasises a broader and deeper conception of integration. This follows on from the first and second waves of international education; aid education (defined by the Colombo Plan) and mass commercial education.

This approach is about redefining the conceptual understanding of international education and promoting increased international collaboration. Australian universities are no longer just providers of quality education to overseas students, but part of a larger globalised higher education system that encourages the reciprocity of ideas, research, curriculum, and mobility.