Australian Education International (AEI) is an international government body at the Department of Education, Science and Training that promotes international government relations with activities of Australia’s education community.
The Jakarta Post contributor Aulia Rachmat spoke with Shannon Smith, Counselor of Education, Science and Training at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, on how the AEI plays its role in providing information to students and parents seeking information on studying in Australia.
Question: Can you explain how AEI has helped prepare those wanting to further their education in Australia?
Answer: What AEI does is to have affiliation with Australian universities, colleges and schools that enroll foreign students. Back in Australia, AEI also does things such as regulate universities and schools that take foreign students in a way of maintaining outstanding academic quality. In Indonesia, we have three Australian Education Centers (AECs) in Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan, respectively. They are here because of the demand of students and parents, since one-third of Indonesian students studying abroad are in Australia. Thus, the primary purpose of AEI is to ensure that foreign students’ Australia experiences are positive ones. In other words, when we promote Australian education, we ensure that foreign students studying in Australia gain high quality of knowledge in as much as what they have paid.
How does the AEI ensure that foreign students have positive experiences?
They have a national legislation body known as National Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS). What the legislation does is actually to set up regulations, where such regulations put altogether the frameworks that govern how the universities and schools operate when they enroll foreign students. Through the National Education Services for Overseas Students Act, the quality of education needed by foreign students is well-monitored. This includes the provision of student services and financial assurance. Furthermore, ESOS set up the quality standard that every university and school in Australia should follow.
How good is the Australian education system in terms of global education competitiveness?
Not only has Australia one of the best international education systems, but also most of the universities and higher education schools have outstanding internship programs. One of the primary reasons of why Indonesian students want to study in Australia is the opportunity of getting internship and working experiences through their academic courses. An internship is part of the degree, in both undergraduate and graduate programs. Most of the study fields, particularly in Business majors, have internships that give valuable working experience to students in accordance with what they learn from taking classes. Australia also offers a vocational higher education called TAFE (Technical and Further Education). Many foreign students choose TAFE after graduating from high school as a short cut since courses in the program will prepare students directly for work. Whether at universities or TAFE institutes, foreign students can work part-time, within or outside their areas of studies. Most importantly, they are able to stay and work in Australia after they finish their degrees.
What are the most popular career pursuits that foreign students seek during or after studying at university or TAFE?
Mainly in the business fields, like accounting and finance as well as in the field of information and technology. While TAFE provides a range of jobs in many study areas like Business Administration and Computing and Information System. One of the advantages of studying in Australia is that there are many companies looking for students willing to work with them, either on an internship program or after graduating from university or college. In fact, a number of Indonesian and Australian companies have come to AEI, as we have referred a large number of Indonesian graduates who just return from Australia. We are talking about the big companies. And some of these companies have relationships with universities, particularly with their career offices, or with us. What we do is we have built a strong relationship with the alumni, so we assist those who come back to Indonesia to link up with employers here.
So it’s like building a well-established community among the alumni for a more effective career search?
Yes. In addition to that, we have just started building an online community. This is something new for us, but the idea is to link the alumni together as to provide one single place for all Indonesians who studied in Australia. We really encourage everyone who ever studied in Australia, including those taking short-courses, to join this web-based online community. The website can help Indonesian alumni build good connections for business partnerships or find their career path.
It sounds like there are so many opportunities that one can take by studying in Australia. In regards to cultural differences, how do foreign students from Indonesia adapt to the lifestyle there?
Indonesian students actually can adapt to the Australian atmosphere better than students from other countries. Not to mention the fact of their outstanding academic records, and their higher level of English skills. They are really adaptive.
Is it difficult to obtain a visa to study in Australia?
It has never been easier to obtain a student visa to Australia. Ninety-eight percent of all visa applications from Indonesia are approved by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). The Australian government also recently eased requirements which need to be met for a student visa to be granted to Indonesians. This was due to the fact that Indonesian students were good at complying with student visa conditions while in Australia. DIAC has also introduced a service whereby student visa applications can be lodged via the Internet. This e-visa requires less paperwork and offers a faster service. It is available through a number of pre-qualified education agents.
How about a scholarship program, do you have one available to Indonesian students wanting to further their studies in Australia?
The Australian government will be providing about 300 scholarships to Indonesians in 2008. Applications are currently open, and information can be obtained from www.australianscholarships.gov.au. The number of Indonesian alumni from the Australian Scholarships program is around 10,000 since the 1950s.
Published in The Jakarta Post, June 4, 2009.