Universities Australia action plan for student safety
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Universities Australia has adopted a ten point action plan for student safety from recommendations developed by the Deputy and Pro Vice-Chancellors (International) from Australian universities, as part of a meeting convened by Universities Australia in Canberra on June 4 and 5. The plan emphasises strong law enforcement plus necessary complementary actions.
University leaders met with members of the Canberra diplomatic community during the meeting, and guests included the Indian High Commissioner to Australia Mrs Sujatha Singh, as well as Commonwealth officials. Universities Australia's Lead Vice-Chancellor (International) Professor Daryl Le Grew, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania, also addressed the meeting.
"The meeting affirmed the crucial importance of international integration through education. It unreservedly condemned the deplorable attacks that have been reported involving international students studying at Australian universities or at vocational education and training institutions, both public and private," Universities Australia's Chief Executive Dr Glenn Withers said today.
"Universities believe that the situation requires a national response and close cooperation between all education providers and the Commonwealth government, state authorities, foreign governments and their diplomatic representatives and other partners, to find solutions which will enhance the total educational experience including ensuring the present and future safety of all students," Dr Withers said.
The adoption of this action plan follows longer-standing advocacy for such measures by Universities Australia, more recent Universities Australia statements of condemnation of the attacks on international students, and support for new Commonwealth Government international education initiatives.
In relation to the recent violent incidents, Universities Australia welcomes the response from the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Minister for Trade, the Leader of the Opposition, and State Premiers. "To implement this plan, the University sector is ready to be involved in working with national and state/territory authorities and other stakeholders such as other education providers, community representatives and those who employ student workers," Dr Withers said.
Support proactive, preventive approaches to assuring student safety; and collaborate with local law enforcement authorities to increase levels of security including through improved cultural awareness and via increased visibility of police and security officers in locations where international students study, work, travel and live, and with suitable complaints bodies being in place to respond to concerns over inaction.
Work with diplomatic missions and the Australian government to streamline and enhance existing reporting processes for missions regarding student safety. At the same time work in partnership with Australia's own diplomatic posts as required, developing fully integrated communication processes to advise and support students on living and studying in Australia upon receipt of their student visas.
Cooperate with governments, local authorities and housing industry representatives to ensure the availability of sufficient affordable and secure accommodation for all students including international students upon arrival. Consider innovative finance mechanisms to assist both the students and the construction arrangements e.g. a Fund akin to the Education Investment Fund to support this at appropriately sustainable levels.
Advocate that all state and territory authorities immediately make available travel concessions for all students to help enhance their safety and security when moving between campuses, accommodation and workplaces, and improve public transport safety for all, and encourage employer and union support for assuring safe travel conditions for student workers.
Sustain and expand the current provision of information by all education providers on student security and safety from pre-departure programs, arrival and orientation through to graduation; and encourage students themselves to act on this information by taking safety precautions whenever possible.
Reinforce strategies for the integration of students of all nationalities and backgrounds on our campuses and in our communities, and promote a greater understanding of international cultures and languages in Australia through collaboration between the Australian Government, overseas governments and international agencies.
Cooperate with authorities in student source countries to ensure that university recruitment agents accurately represent all aspects of the international student experience, including safety aspects and the cost of living, and ensure that visa issue by Australian authorities is focussed on genuine and suitable educational objectives.
Enhance campus-based student support programs in health, child care, counselling, and employment services and expand specific safety programs including through ongoing input from local authorities, such as police commands, road and traffic authorities, real estate institutes and employers. Passage of the Student Services and Amenities Bill by the current parliament would assist this process immeasurably.
Encourage campus and national student leadership to take a pro-active role in representing and supporting international students to enable them to raise important issues regarding the quality of the student experience.
Engage strongly in the forthcoming ESOS review and establishment of TEQSA to ensure that appropriate accreditation and quality assurance of all international education providers in Australia is guaranteed, including via strong and effective enforcement mechanisms.
The action plan adopted here anticipates a further more detailed Position Paper on the Student Experience and Student Safety to be issued shortly by Universities Australia.