Macquarie University- Support Your International Students

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To Macquarie University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor S Bruce Dowton

It is time for Macquarie University to step up in support of its own international students.

There are over 570,000 international students currently in Australia, participating fully in the Australian economy as workers, taxpayers, and consumers. In the 2017-2018 financial year, international students injected nearly $32b into Australia’s economy. Many of us are firmly planted in our Sydney-area communities, currently supporting Australia during this pandemic as essential workers in healthcare, aged-care, disability care, agriculture and grocery retail, food service, early childhood education and care, and many other roles.

 In Macquarie University’s 2018 report, there were 11,732 international students from more than 120 countries, making up 26.3 percent of students. While full-time domestic students currently pay an estimated $6,684 in annual tuition, Macquarie University has become financially dependent on the fees of international students which equals an estimated $31,000 per year per student. That means international students are paying fees of 4.63x that of domestic students.

You might be thinking, ‘but didn’t international students know this before they applied?”. Of course, we knew the price of tuition, but there is the expectation that when there is a global crisis, there is a duty of care that the university has to the its students. We, as international students, also had a reasonable and increased level of expectation that we were paying for quality face-to-face instruction seeing as it is a requirement of our student visas that at least two thirds of all study must be in person. In fact, this transition for all study to online distance learning is not just a challenge as many students struggle with a lack of in person education and support, but it is actually a violation of the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act has been waived during the pandemic, just another way in which international students are being disadvantaged). 

Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000

National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018
8.18           A registered provider must not deliver a course exclusively by online or distance learning to an overseas student.
8.19           A registered provider must not deliver more than one-third of the units (or equivalent) of a higher education or VET course by online or distance learning to an overseas student.
8.20           A registered provider must ensure that in each compulsory study period for a course, the overseas student is studying at least one unit that is not by distance or online learning, unless the student is completing the last unit of their course.
8.21           For school, ELICOS or foundation programs, any online or distance learning must be in addition to minimum face-to-face teaching requirements approved by the relevant designated State authority or ESOS agency as part of the registration of the course, if applicable.
8.22           The registered provider must take all reasonable steps to support overseas students who may be disadvantaged by: 8.22.1      additional costs or other requirements, including for overseas students with special needs, from undertaking online or distance learning

With this information, I am asking Macquarie University to offer practical financial assistance to its vital international student population. It is understood that Macquarie University has a Financial Assistance Loan, however the cap of $1000 for loans and $2000 for grants is not sufficient in the current situation when international students are not eligible for government assistance (Centrelink, JobSeeker, or JobKeeper), yet we have been hit with the same devastation in loss of jobs, financial support from home, access to overseas family, and are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods. Yet, these same students are at risk of serious breaches in their own reasonable understandings of their agreements with you, the university, yet they are forced to stomach high tuition fees for inequitable online education. 

Dan Tehan, Minister of Education, has stated that universities and the international educations sectors need to find ways to support international students. Many Universities have already begun what Macquarie University has failed to do.

For example, Western Sydney University has not only created an international student hardship fund to supply food packages and other essentials, but they have introduced a “10% tuition fee reduction for all international students undertaking Undergraduate or Postgraduate Coursework degrees or a Masters of Research in Session 1”. In addition to the financial support, the university has also agreed to support all students in their transition to online learning: “The University will support you to succeed online but if you do fail a unit due to the extraordinary circumstances, you can repeat at no cost”.
(Western Sydney University)

University of Melbourne is another example, as they have provided multiple avenues of considerable financial support in relation to the challenges caused by COVID-19 including:
“…assistance to help you meet the minimum cost of living for the duration of the semester where you have lost a secure source of income due to COVID-19. This could include paid work, family or other sources.” and “…support to contribute towards the costs of IT hardware (mainly laptops), internet access (data plans) and office furniture required for remote study”. (University of Melbourne)

It is inexcusable for the internationally acclaimed Macquarie University to leave its own international students in its care without reasonable support to successfully continue their education for the semester. International students are owed a fee reduction in recognition of the violation of the legislation provided above (that students had a reasonable expectation would last for the duration of their studies) and the university should also acknowledge the considerable hardship international students specifically are experiencing with various adequate supports such as the examples listed above.

If we, internationals students, truly are “[y]our friends, [y]our classmates, [y]our colleagues, and members of [y]our community” as Dan Tehan, the Minister of Education stated, it is time to treat us as such.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Respectfully,

Macquarie University Postgraduate International Student
Master of Teaching
Essential Worker