Battered by a spate of attacks on Indians and a slew of scams, Australia today announced an overhaul of its $15.5 billion international education sector to resolve problems in accreditation, role of recruitment agents and curriculum taught.
The sweeping changes, announced a day after Australia's top leadership assured New Delhi that it would ensure the safety of its students, include a review of the legislation governing education services for overseas students, focusing on four main areas - the welfare of students, quality of services, regulation and the sustainability of the industry.
Announcing the measures, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is also the education minister, said former Liberal MP Bruce Baird will head the government review into Australia's international education sector, the nation's third largest export industry, and set it right.
Her announcement comes after a series of reports of racist violence against Indian students, shonky private colleges providing dubious diplomas, visa abuses and the collapse of educational institutions.
"Mr Baird will hold targeted forums with groups including state and territory government officials, regulatory bodies, education providers, student bodies and diplomatic missions," she said in a statement.
"He will also draw from the results of the international student round table to be held in Canberra in early September," Gillard said, a day after visiting External Affairs Minister S M Krishna met Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his counterpart Stephen Smith and discussed the problems faced by Indian students Down Under.
Baird admitted that Australia's reputation had been damaged in recent times and said he believes the community will be keen for action, mindful of being perceived as racist or uncaring about students coming to this country.
"They'll want these issues addressed," he told AAP.
Around 95,000 Indian students pursue their higher education in Australia, whose reputation as an education hub for the region has taken a battering in recent months.
It took a hit following the outcry over violence against international students, particularly Indians and the problem has been exacerbated by claims of suspect education providers exploiting their clients. At least 22 attacks on Indian students have been reported in the past three months.
"We'll be looking at the general welfare of students who come to our shores, as well as issues such as have we got dodgy operators," Baird said.
He said much of Australia's work in the international education sector is handled really well. But the bottom end of the market needs to be scrutinised to ensure that "we're delivering quality education".