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Oz varsities demand financial net for overseas students

Last updated on: June 24, 2009 15:30 IST

Australian universities have demanded setting up of a financial safety net for international students amid reports indicating majority of them experienced monetary crunch.

A research was conducted jointly by the universities on the finances of foreign students and the paper asked the Australian government and educational institutions to set aside funds for such students.

Review of the 'specified minimum income' the students need to support themselves while studying, was also demanded from the government, The Australian reported on Wednesday.

The findings of the research were released after serious concerns were raised on safety and security of overseas students who have been 'soft targets' of attackers as they work long hours and rely on late night public transport.

In December, Victorian Taskforce on International education recommended that the commonwealth needed to ensure that a minimum of 12,000 Australian dollars was made available to the students.

The joint Melbourne-Monash qualitative study of opinions of overseas students from nine universities found 37 per cent experienced financial difficulties, which were often acute.

The study also found that 'overwhelming majority' of foreign students were unaware of any support available to them or means to access it.

Asked who they would turn to in serious financial crisis, 9.7 per cent said they would contact their university and 10 per cent said they would not contact anyone, while almost 62 per cent said they would turn to their families.

The study also pointed out that reasons of the monetary problems, included currency swings, need to help families, inadequate support from institutions and insufficient information from recruiters.

On the ways to address the safety issue, chairman of higher education at Melbourne University and one of the authors of Australian University International Student

Finances study, Simon Marginson said, "The direct way is to put more police and transport officials on."

New Australian Bureau of Statistics figures revealed that overseas student program in its entirety - including schools, vocational and English language institutions -- was last year worth more than Australian $15 billion to the national economy.

But figures reveal that the higher education sector earns a much smaller proportion of the total amount. Last year it earned 3.06 billion dollars in fees while 5.84 billion was spent by overseas students on goods and services.

If this expenditure was deducted from the national accounts it would significantly lower the global figure claimed for education-related earnings.

Natasha Chaku in Melbourne
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