Australia's fast-growing but vulnerable international education industry has long sought a co-ordinated government approach to managing its interests and issues. And the nearly $19 billion-a-year sector appears to be at last achieving cut-through with the Turnbull government.
In September, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed Liberal Tasmanian senator Richard Colbeck as the country's first minister for international education and tourism.
Alongside the development of a national strategy for international education, the appointment of a dedicated minister is viewed as a game-changer by universities and private and public colleges.
Australia has been on a roller-coaster ride with international education since the 1950s.
At various times, our share of international students market has surged, plateaued and crashed, with currency fluctuations and changes to Australia's immigration policy both affecting the market.
The international student sector brought in $18.77 billion to Australia in the year to September, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.
The robust demand from overseas students is being fuelled by the low Australian dollar, restrictive visa policies in competitor countries, especially Britain, and continuing positive performances on university league tables.
In August, there were 566,013 full-fee paying international students in Australia on a student visa. Of these, 262,000 were enrolled in a university, with the rest attending vocational and English language colleges and schools.
But Australia learnt as much between 2009 and 2012 when overseas student arrivals slumped.
The reason? There was a sharp appreciation in the value of the Australian dollar. But expensive student accommodation costs here, awkward and costly visa processing, and international news reports of incidents involving overseas students in Sydney and Melbourne also had a hand in the downturn.
The education sector has since benefited tremendously from the introduction of streamlined visa processing and the dollar's depreciation since 2013.
It's now 30 per cent cheaper for international students to study here compared with in 2011.
"We need a champion minister because sometimes the immigration department makes decisions in isolation from the education department," says Phil Honeywood, the executive director of the International Education Association of Australia, referring to the appointment of Senator Colbeck as minister.
"We need someone who can cut through."
There are eight peak bodies involved in international education sector but the IEAA is the only cross-sector one. As a result, the IEAA co-ordinates the peak bodies involved in the TAFE and universities sectors and in English language training so that the sector presents a united voice to government and the public.
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