CDU pushes overseas student exchange 


Student exchange is a relatively recent phenomenon of university life.

It’s the kind of experience that makes older academics look rather enviously at the opportunities that were never available to them in their undergraduate days.

But a recent study suggests that Australian students are not as mobile as their overseas counterparts when it comes to spending time in a foreign country as part of their degree.

According to the Australian’s Higher Education supplement, last year only 3.7 of students enrolled in Australian universities were spending time away on student exchange.

It is expected that the fine detail of a recent survey of student mobility will be presented at next week’s Australian International Education Conference in Perth.

According to Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop, the Australian figure compares badly with the US experience, where she suggests “about 20 per cent” of students will take part in student exchange at some time during their degree studies.

The Federal Government is now flagging that the Australian participation in exchange programs should be boosted by offering an expanded loans program and increased income support while overseas.

This year at Charles Darwin University there is a determined push to encourage more students to apply for overseas places.

CDU has reciprocal arrangements with about 20 universities in Europe, the US and Canada to send students on exchange programs and to take in foreign students.

According to Fiona Richards, the manager of CDU’s international marketing and recruiting, the exchange agreements work on a one for one basis. However, she admits that it is far easier to get foreign students to study in Darwin than send students overseas.

“By sending out a student and bringing someone in, university fees are virtually cancelled out,” she says. “It is not really as expensive as some students think to study overseas. Students study under the Australian fee system, and can choose to live abroad in student accommodation or shared accommodation. The only real cost is the air fare to get there.”
Ms Richards has just returned from New York and Canada, where she visited partnership universities and took part in recruitment fairs.

She says one of the problems in encouraging students to study overseas is that the concept has never been part of the Australian psyche. “In overseas universities study abroad is often built into the degree courses, which makes it easy, “ says Ms Richards. “In other words, they’ve internationalised their education.”

“We’ve got to convince our students that international study is important for their broader education, and that they will be able to enrol in subjects that they would not be able to study at home.”

As part of the campaign to encourage more students to apply for study abroad, the Student Exchange program will hold an information session on campus on October 12. It will be held in Building 22.03 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm.