International students need services and support to build their English language proficiency, says CAPA
The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) is calling for funding to be dedicated to supporting academic and social opportunities for international students, amid rising concerns that many international students in Australia are unable to adequately communicate in English.
For international students who are learning English, it is crucial to have opportunities to converse with other English speakers, including local students. However, for many of the 40% of international students undertaking postgraduate study, such opportunities on campus are few and far between. Postgraduate associations, which provide informal opportunities to practice English with local speakers, are alarmingly under-funded. A recent CAPA survey indicated that the worst-funded association in Australia receives just $3.50 per student per year to provide support services and social opportunities, including informal events for international students to maintain and develop their English language competency.
Most students pay approximately $300 per year in the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), but see remarkably little of this dedicated to social programs as universities creatively interpret the SSAF legislation to cover funding shortfalls elsewhere. We call on universities to commit to providing half of the Student Services and Amenities Fee collected to their student associations, including postgraduate associations, so that associations are able to fulfil their purpose of creating a community through social, academic, and networking initiatives.
We concur with statements made by the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) that universities must adhere to minimum entry requirements for international students. We note that falling federal government investment in education has caused universities to become increasingly reliant on international student tuition fees, which puts pressure on universities to lower entry standards in order to enrol more students.
At the same time, due to these federal funding cuts, universities are having to make do with less resources. Some of the changes we have seen in recent years include reduced face-to-face classroom time, and cutting the amount of time that staff are paid for their teaching duties. This impacts international students’ opportunities to improve their English language skills.
“International students’ struggles to become proficient in English is a symptom of a higher education system in crisis, with funding shortfalls reducing the quality of their courses and of their extra-curricular opportunities,” says CAPA National President, Natasha Abrahams.
“Student associations play an important role in orienting international students and providing opportunities for them to meet other students – universities need to start funding these associations at a level where they are able to reliably provide these services.”
CAPA National President Natasha Abrahams
M: 0430 076 993