By HANNAH MEI and MAHIA RAHMAN
Universities have an important responsibility to support the large numbers of international students they bring to Australia, NSW International Student of the Year 2017 Linus Faustin says.
“Many universities lack effective support services … all platforms of communication should be engaged, such as Facebook, Instagram and WeChat.”
"Universities need to get creative,” he said.
It was the focus of a recent sold-out seminar in Sydney titled Cash cows or human capital? Perspectives on international students in Australia, at which Mr Faustin was a speaker.
Mr Faustin, an online community officer for University of Technology Sydney (UTS), said social media platforms had more engagement than other platforms such as email, and were better at catering to the wants and interests of international students.
“Universities may have awesome services for international students, but if they don’t choose to communicate these services, well, there is no success,” he said.
Mr Faustin said mental health was one issue for international students, since many who came from from Asia and Africa did not fully understand its importance.
He said universities needed to encourage these students to speak about mental health and to get support. “When you say you have mental health issues, it’s a sign of weakness,” he said.
International education researcher Aleksandr Voninski, a partner at education provider support company Edified Education, said places such as Campus Connect, where international students get help from peers on campus, could help with their transition process.
Universities were taking measures to ensure better graduate outcomes through hybrid and online classes as well as offering micro-credentialing – mini-degrees focusing on specific fields to enhance graduates' skills, he said.
“We are continuing to grow but we do have to balance the quantity and the quality factor,” he said.
Mr Voninski suggested encouraging international students to broaden their studies, as there was an over-concentration of international students in courses such as finance and accounting compared with STEM and Arts.
More dialogue between governments and universities to provide long-term solutions for international students was also important
“Universities and the government will have to work together on creating more open visa policies for an increasingly mobile labour force and an increasingly mobile education force,” he said.