International Education: A ‘Rich’ Cultural Experience

International education is increasingly important due to globalising industries, international workforces, understanding global issues and developing cultural awareness and understanding (Khorana 2014). But furthermore, international education is an educational, social and cultural experience, with immense potential to enrich the lives of all who encounter it (Marginson 2012).

In 2009, 22% of tertiary students studying in Australia were international students (ABS 2011). In 2010-11, international education activity contributed $16.3 billion in export income to the Australian economy (ABS 2011). This significant figure indicates just how important international education is to Australia’s cultural landscape and economy. As international education continues to succeed as a business in Australia, the quality of the international student’s experience should increase as an intercultural encounter as well (Marginson 2012).

Unfortunately though, to some, these students are only significant due to their financial potential and therefore, “international education is not the rich intercultural experience it could be” (Marginson 2012, p. 1). Some of these motivated and determined students, who seek to come to Australia for the rich cultural experience that is advertised, do not always enjoy that experience. Instead encounter violence, discrimination, exploitation and isolation upon arrival.

"Indian student Sourabh Sharma was bashed and robbed by a racist gang on a train to Werribee" (Jewel Topsfield, 2009) Photo Source: Penny Stephens

“Indian student Sourabh Sharma was bashed and robbed by a racist gang on a train to Werribee” (Jewel Topsfield, 2009)
Photo Source: Penny Stephens

In 2009, the Australian and Indian media widely publicised the reports of crimes and robberies against Indians in Australia. The Indian government carried out investigations into these attacks, which concluded that out of the 152 reports of assaults against Indian students, 23 incidents had “racial overtones” (Wikipedia; retrieved from India Express 2010). The result of these attacks led to a sudden decline in Indian student enrolments, with numbers down by 40% in 2010 compared to 2009 (Hartcher 2012). Considering the total average economic benefit international students bring to Australia of about $34,000/ year, this indicated an approximate total loss of $50 million for that year (Hartcher 2012). Hartcher, The Sydney Morning Herald, commented that, The country has suffered real reputational damage, real economic cost, and real diplomatic disadvantage.” But even worse than this, Australia’s international relations were damaged by these violent attacks, diminishing the appeal of Australia to international students. After these attacks, the total number of Indian students studying in Australia was down by 5% compared to the previous year (Hartcher 2010). John McCarthy, previously Australia’s High Commissioner in India, pointed out that in a survey conducted in India, Australia, previously fifth most welcome country to Indians, had dropped to fortieth. Although many see this as an economic disadvantages, it is also a major cultural disadvantage.

Indian students protest against the violent attacks. Source:

Indian students protest against the violent attacks.

Though these types of violent and discriminatory attacks are not the case for all international students, it should not be the case for any international student studying and living in Australia. As a nation that prides itself on multiculturalism, only to be repeatedly criticised for its racism, international education should be seen as one (of many) chances to showcase our cultural awareness and appreciation. International education is providing tremendous opportunities across the globe. Not only are academic, training or sporting ventures granted to those who are lucky enough to undertake such an adventure, but a fresh perspective is gained by those who encounter these international students.

Reference List

Khorana, S 2014, BCM111 Internationalising Education: 2014 lecture notes 13.08.2014, University of Wollongong, Semester 2, 2014.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011, viewed 19.08.2014, <>.

Marginson, S 2012, Morphing a Profit-Making Business into an Intercultural Experience: 2012 lecture notes. 

Hartcher, P 2010, ‘When Indian students suffer, Australia risks being scarred for life’, The Sydney Morning Herald, April, viewed 19.08.2014, <>.

Wikipedia, viewed 19.08014, <> ; Source retrieved from on 25.2.2010 Indian Express.



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