Victorian premier meets Chinese ed minister on trip
Universities Australia has welcomed Victorian premier Daniel Andrews’s four-day visit to China where he will seek to attract Chinese students to the state.
During his trip Andrews has visited senior Chinese officials to discuss education, trade and cultural issues.
The visit has been met with controversy after Andrews failed to invite any Australian media, with MPs arguing the exclusion would mean the public would have to rely on Chinese state media for coverage.
However, Universities Australia, has noted the importance of drawing more Chinese international students to Australia.
“We welcome reports of improvements in our trade relationship with China,” Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson told The PIE News.
“China is our largest trading partner and our biggest source market of international students, with some 136,000 Chinese students now studying in Australia.
“Increasing the flow of international students, not just from China but all around the world, to Australia is good for our economy, communities and diplomacy. Education is our largest services export and added almost $41 billion to the economy in 2019,” Jackson added.
Andrews has come under fire after politicians complained about the lack of transparency surrounding the visit.
Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson, who is the co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said that the premier’s decision to travel without media was ‘unorthodox’ as reported by Guardian Australia earlier this week.
“The Victorian taxpayers who will pick up the tab for the trip are entitled to full disclosure about where he’s going, who he’s seeing, what they discuss and what outcomes are secured,” he told Guardian Australia.
“He should articulate what the purpose is, why he’s going, what are the outcomes he’s seeking to achieve for Victoria from this secret trip that he will not take any reporters on.”
However, federal Labor MPs said the trip would help the government to stabilise Australia’s relationship with China.
Labor MP Peter Khalil, the chair of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security said the trip will enhance Australia’s economic links, particularly with respect to encouraging international students to study in the country.
The premier’s office has gradually released details of Andrews’ trip, with his office saying that on Tuesday he had a “very positive” meeting with China’s minister of education Huai Jinpeng.
In the meeting Andrews said that Chinese students were “safe and respected in Victoria”.
“Further exchanges of postgraduate students were canvassed”
“The minister indicated Chinese parents would be more likely to send their children to study in Victoria than other places,” a statement from the premier’s office said.
“Further exchanges of postgraduate students were canvassed – which could include short stay or longer exchanges for master’s students and PhD candidates.”
Sky News also reported that Andrews’s updated schedule reveals “sister state arrangements” were a key topic of conversation when the premier met with Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries vice president Li Xukui.
Victoria currently has a number of sister city agreements with provinces in China – which include partnerships around education.
“There was also a discussion of more students in Melbourne studying complementary medicine and the prospect of traditional Chinese medicine companies visiting Melbourne,” a statement from the premier’s office added.
Australia is working hard to draw back international students to the country, with the government relaxing student visa work limits across all sectors of the economy.
There have been concerns around the relaxation of these work limits, including reports that international students have been arriving in Australia on university courses and then switching to vocational or private colleges which have more flexible study options.
Australia has also announced that international higher education graduates with eligible qualifications will be granted an extra two years of post-study work rights.
A recent piece of research in which market intelligence firm BONARD surveyed some 350 Chinese students, found that 39% would consider studying in Australia.
Australia was beaten to the top spot by the UK – with 45% of students saying they would consider studying in the country.
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