Don't fret about the higher 'wobble'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 October, 2004, 12:00am

Global demand for higher education will continue to expand, particularly from 'the awakening giant' China, an international education expert said this week.

Unesco's former assistant director-general for education, Sir John Daniel, said Australian universities that were alarmed by a fall-off in applications from Asian students should 'take a tranquiliser' and not worry.

Speaking at an international conference in Sydney, organised by recruiting agency IDP Education Australia, Sir John said officials from the mainland's Education Ministry were proud of the numbers of students going abroad and wanted to increase them.

'Of course, anything you say about China has to come with a health warning in that every 25 years the country has a complete convulsion, like the Cultural Revolution,' he said.

'But I know that education is prized in China more than any other nation so many of its people will continue to go abroad to study.'

But, as Australia had the world's highest per capita number of international students, it was understandable any 'wobble' created a certain panic in the system.

Sir John is now president and chief executive of Commonwealth Learning - a Commonwealth agency that helps developing countries use technology in education to increase the scope and scale of what they do.

He said strict US visa controls had seriously affected recruitment by American universities. It would be some time before America recovered from the 'gross over-reaction' to the terrorist attacks three years ago.

Many institutions were in dire straits following a dramatic 76 per cent fall in applications from Chinese students and a 60 per cent drop from India, Sir John said.

Sir John said an estimated 100 million students were studying in higher education around the world. This number was forecast to increase to 260 million in the 2020s and the population of students going abroad would also rise sharply.

IDP describes its annual meeting as the world's third largest international education conference. This year it was exploring the role of international education in cultural understanding, the influences on international students in choosing a university and the implications of government policy.

Chief executive Lindy Hyam told journalists that many of the developing nations that had fuelled the rapid growth of international student numbers in Australia now had very good undergraduate institutions of their own.