This article draws on material gathered during the conduct of two research projects. The first project investigated the nature of the primary determinants of study success for Indonesian Post Graduate students studying in Australian universities. This project was sponsored by the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB). The second study entitled Research into the Professional Development of Tertiary Teaching for Academics: With Special Reference to Cross Cultural and Overseas Student Interaction, investigates the nature of the reaction of academics to the increasing number of cross cultural and overseas students attending their courses. This project, was funded by the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET). The article draws on the data gathered in the above studies and explores the nature of the change which has occurred in the student body of Australian universities and suggests the reasons why many academics are modifying the way they teach students.
The New Face of University Education
Changes instituted by Mr Dawkins, the former Minister for Employment, Education and Training of the Australian Federal Government, have radically altered the structure and composition of university education in Australia, so much so that both the previously constituted universities and CAEs have struggled to understand and adjust to the new requirements and expectations. Nevertheless, no matter how radical such changes may have been considered, other changes, such as the types of students now attending universities, are also having a profound influence on the process of higher education. Not only are there increased numbers of students, and therefore, larger classes, but also the composition of the students who attend those classes is radically different. Many such students now increasingly come from cross cultural and overseas backgrounds, speak other languages and have had different educational upbringings.
The Full Fee Paying Policy
In 1985 it was observed that although the Services constituted 74% of Australia’s GNP, they were only responsible for 4% of export earning. It was also noted that before this time, despite Australia’s long tradition of educating overseas students, the Educational Sector had not engaged in exporting its services.
In 1985, the Australian Government sent an education mission to various Asian countries to investigate the commercial opportunities for the marketing of Australian university education. The mission reported that significant areas of demand for educational services did exist and could be met by the Australian educational sector. It was estimated that by 1988, provided effective marketing strategies were employed, educational services and related activities could annually amount to approximately $100m in foreign exchange earnings. This figure was later found to be an under estimation of potential earnings. By 1989 direct fee earnings were calculated to be $318m,1 with total expenditures on other items such as accommodation, transport, and so forth, to amount to two or three times that figure.
The Changing Face of the Student Body
DEET information indicates that “in just four years to mid- 1989 it (the overseas student body) rose from 24,000 to 55,500.”2 It should be noted that only one one third of these students were taking a full-fee course, others were taking informal courses. This combined total had progressively increased since 1986 — 23,833, 1987 — 29,121, 1988 — 43,979.
Home Residence of Students
Statistics provided by DEET (see tables 1 to 4) indicated that in 1990 28,311 students of the total 485,077 university population identified an overseas county as their home residence. If those 893 students coming from the USA and New Zealand, which are predominantly English speaking countries, are deducted, the remaining 27,418 students represented a group of students who came from, and would be returning to, mostly Asian countries in which English is spoken as a foreign language, and where the legal, cultural and educational practices are quite different to those practised in Australia.
Where the number of university students, however, in the DEET statistics, has been broken down according to county of birth, the figures which refer to the top 10 countries indicate that 78,110 students come from a NESB country.
The term NESB is defined as students who have migrated to Australia or are the children of parents who have come to Australia and whose first language is a language other than English.3
The 78,110 NESB student figure indicates that the “overseas student” classificatory term, referred to above, might hide the true nature of the cross cultural student population in universities. A more embracing term might be that of “cross cultural students/overseas students” (CCS/OS), since the difficulties experienced by “overseas students” are generally indistinguishable from local migrant, or “cross cultural students”. The figure of 78,011 is 16% of the total 485,077 of university students in Australia.
Table 1: 1990 Overseas Students by Home Residence (top 10 countries)
The total overseas student population by home residence is 28,311.4
The following tables give more data on countries of origin.
Table 25: 1990 Overseas Students by Country of Birth
If only NESB countries included from the top 10, the combined total is 78,011 or 16% or overall. Of this total 35%, or 27, 418 identify an overseas address in an NESB country.
1 Australia 374,146
2 UK 24,184
3 Malaysia 12,105
4 NZ 5,871
5 Vietnam 5,490
6 Singapore 4,370
7 Indonesia 2,956
8 USA 2,766
9 China 2,713
10 India 2,134
Total Number of University students = 485,077
These tables indicate the origins, and therefore cultural derivations of many of these students.
By 1989 the majority of overseas university students were said to be coming from Asian countries. Searle and Brash state that in “In-mid 1989, 30,135 of the total 32,198 full fee students came from Asia.”6
Table 37: Number of Institutions Offering Approved Full Fee Course to Overseas Students Between 1986 and 1990