Student market drives Victorian economy (November lunch)

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Dr Kerry Bennett and post-graduate students

Dr Kerry Benett and graduate students Aparna Nair, left, and Mandy Kowara

Postgraduate students comprise 30% of all enrolments in Australian universities. In 2001, 73% of postgraduate enrolments were domestic students. By 2026, there will be more international than domestic postgraduate students at Australian universities. Victoria is leading the way in the push to embrace post-graduate students – particularly those from overseas.

Dr Kerry Bennett, the CEO of Graduate Union of the University of Melbourne, told our monthly lunch on Wednesday 20 November, that in Victoria in 2018 53 percent of postgraduate student enrolments were domestic.
Postgraduate students significantly outnumber undergraduates at The University of Melbourne, with 37,000 postgraduate students and 30,000 undergraduates. By 2028, the business of educating post-graduate students will generate about $88 billion for Australia.

Victorian is a key player in the world market for international students. Dr Bennett said that the University of Melbourne regularly ranks between 30th and 35th in the ranking of the world’s best universities, with RMIT also in the top 500. This is out of a world university population of at least 10,000 institutions.

Dr Bennett says that Australia must actively work to improve student welfare if it wants to stay competitive. She cited the example of the National University of Singapore, which ranks 23rd in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings world league of top universities.

“What’s the difference [between Australia and Singapore]?” Dr Bennett asked. “It’s all the supports that Singapore provides which leads to the students having a good experience.” She said that Singapore provided students with supportive community-style accommodation, with students living in villages equipped with childcare centres and gyms.

Australia, by contrast, was moving towards a model where students lived in gated communities. This accommodation consists of multiple individual rooms, making it hard for students to socialise and draw on the support of the surrounding community. “In a recent international survey of university accommodation, Australia ranked 57th out of 100, which is low,” Dr Bennett said.

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