d e a n   f o r b e s                                                              knowledge economy - universities - cities

MEDIA commentary 2010

India population will overtake China by 2025’ Radio Australia, 30 December 2010.

Uni push to spice up cultural mix”, The Advertiser, 7 September 2010.

Foreign policy, SBS Radio, Melbourne, 13 August 2010.

APAI Conference video on YouTube, 5 June, 2010.

Just don’t mention the Tiananmen Square massacre’, The Australian, 5 May 2010.

Pacific Rim nations consider trade deal”. Interview on Radio Australia’s Connect Asia, 15 March 2010.

Comment on international student safety, World View, SBS Radio, 25 January 2010.

Blog 2010                                                                scroll down to see more 2010 blogs


















Where are the twitter hotspots? Check the world of tweets. (31/12/10)


India population will overtake China by 2025

Radio Australia Updated December 30, 2010 21:17:26
Asia is set to become the most populous region in the world by 2025 - and not only this, but India is also on track to overtake China to become the most populous country in the world. The United States will remain the third largest nation, followed by Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Analysts predict the demographic shift will lead to a more confident India which will want to exert its growing influence. 

Presenter: Claudette Werden
Speakers: Professor Dean Forbes, Flinders University, Melbourne; Ravi Ratnayake, director, trade and investment division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
WERDEN: The US Census Bureau predicts India's population in 2025 will be just under 1.4 billion people. It'll be the first time that India's population growth will surpass that of China. China faces a shrinking labour force and an ageing population due mainly to Beijing's one child policy. India on the other hand is experiencing a surge in its workforce with an estimated one million people forecast to enter the labour market every month for the next twenty years. Population analyst Professor Dean Forbes says while there may be a direct relationship between economic success and population growth, that link can also be a double edged sword.

FORBES: A lot of the success of China, for instance, is because it's had large numbers of people, willing to work in industries at very low wages, however, that situation won't last for ever. A growing middle class is seeking much more from life than just low wages in industrial enterprises. India has also benefited, though, in a different way from having a large poor rural population, in that it's allowed the middle class and the wealthy in the cities to generate new businesses which are not so much industrial but more services that have enabled India to start to pick up its growth rate over the last few years.

WERDEN: But he says both countries have serious population related challenges that need to be addressed.

FORBES: In China, its population is ageing and that means it will need to work hard to continue to sustain the economic growth it's had. India faces a different situation, there are serious problems in India in terms of the unequal distribution of wealth.

WERDEN: Ravi Ratnayake is the director of the trade and investment division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, which seeks to promote economic and social development in the Asia Pacific region. He says population growth can also hinder a country's economic progress.

RATNAYAKE: If you take countries like Bangladesh, the population is increasing but at the same time poverty is very high, so there are many other social problems arising form high or rapid population growth but if population is used as a source of growth through human capital formation and other ways, it can be a source of growth.

WERDEN: Some pundits predict the demographic shift will lead to a change in the dynamic between the two Asian giants, with a more confident India, increasingly exerting its influence in the region. But Mr Ratnayake says that does not have to be at the expense of China.

RATNAYAKE: I would like to see two countries working together, not substituting basically two sources of growth basically that will be good for the region.

WERDEN: The latest US Census Bureau forecast also shows five of the top ten populous nations are Asian. It highlights the point that the balance of world power - be it economic, political or even cultural - is shifting more to the Asian region. Dr Forbes says that makes sense.

FORBES: Given that the Asian region does contain such a large proportion of the world's population, yes, it is good that any increase in wealth across Asia means much of humanity benefits.

WERDEN: The world population rankings for 2025 include 227 countries. The Pacific nations of Tuvalu, Cook Islands and Nauru are among the bottom ten countries which have the smallest population. Australia is ranked 56th. There are no European countries in the top ten, suggesting that growth in the developed world has slowed down. However, two Africa nations, Nigeria and Ethiopia, are ranked 8th and 9th. While there is evidence of significant population growth in Africa, analysts are concerned there is no significant economic development to go with it. They say the ongoing political instability in some African countries is making economic growth very difficult - even with the continent's rich resources. (30/12/10)


Professionally speaking, for quite a few months of this year there were just as many downs as ups for me.  In the end, the positives far outweighed the negatives. 

2010 started badly.
 The murder of an international student in Melbourne in the first few days of January was dreadful and cast a pall over international education in Australia.
 We missed out on a major EIF grant. It was a setback as it was a strong proposal centred on our new School of the Environment.
 The immigration reforms created far too much collateral damage.  Universities have not yet felt the full impact of significant declines in international students, but will in the coming year.  

The positives fought back, and by years end prevailed.
 Our international  students increased by a healthy 9.5%. Onshore students grew by just under 5%.  A good overall effort, with special thanks to the work of the staff in the International Office.
 Flinders Masters programs with Nankai University continued to thrive, with a doubling of student commencers in 2010. 
 Research collaborations in China with Nankai University took another step forward, and new partnerships were created with two good universities in Hunan.
 Teaching commenced in the Victoria Square building. Our presence in the CBD has been very well received.  Now the cafe adjacent to the ground floor space is open it is even better.
 The University’s engagement in the south of Adelaide took a significant step forward, with staff active across a wide range of fields.  The SKTP group made a big contribution.
 The Flinders Art Museum and City Gallery had several successful exhibitions in the North Terrace Gallery, while the Gooch exhibition continued to make its way around Australia.
 The release of the draft Master Plan for the development of the sustainability precinct at Tonsley provides a real opportunity for Flinders to strengthen its links with green and cleantech industries. (27/12/10)


Another day, another review. The latest is a response to the lobbying from the international education sector about the unfortunate consequences of changes to student visas over the last 12 months.  Quite simply, the reforms went too far, dealing with some key problems, but also changing other features that were working satisfactorily.  The result has seriously disadvantaged international students considering Australia as a destination, and added to the significant downturn in students coming to Australia.

Chris Bowen, the current Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, and Chris Evans, his predecessor, who, ironically, is now Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, jointly announced the review.  Michael Knight, AO, will undertake the task, and the report is due by mid 2011.

Judging by the press release, it will take on board concerns about the crudeness of the changes, and will look at the possibility of different visas for different education sectors, streamlining processes for low risk students, and better communication with sector stakeholders.  

For many years the dialogue between DIAC and the universities worked reasonably well.  But these reforms ambushed us.  Changes needed to occur to reduce the outrageous and unsustainable growth in parts of the VET sector, but not the blunt changes that were dropped on us, along with an attitude that the government was going to save us from ourselves.  (19/12/10) 


This four minute video about the growth of economies  over the past 200 years by Hans Rosling is a stunner!  (13/12/10)


I am only passingly familiar with his songs, but I have always thought Paul Kelly was a musician with gravitas.  After all, he was the support act for Leonard Cohen at Leconsfield last year, and at Hanging Rock this year.  On both occasions he connected with the passionate Leonard Cohen fans.  

Kelly grew up in Adelaide and enrolled at Flinders University in the 1970s, but left before completing his first year in order to become a writer.  That was enough to fuel my interest in his book.

How To Make Gravy (Hamish Hamilton, Melbourne 2010) has an unusual format for an autobiography.  It is structured around music and lyrics, embellished with short essays, notes and old letters.  The book had its origins in a series of Kelly’s concerts in which he worked his way through 100 of his songs, and spoke about his memories associated with them.  It works.

It is bigger than a house brick, and almost as heavy, so it wasn’t easy travelling with it and reading on planes.  But its insights and reflections on the life of a respected muso gave me much enjoyment.  It also got me thinking about how to tell stories and write an autobiography from a less conventional perspective.  (29/11/10) 


I am still digesting the presentations at the Knowledge Cities World Summit this week.  The idea of the knowledge city is slowly catching on, but mainly with a small crowd of academics and city planners. Here are some words that struck a chord.  

Day 1: 
 Knowledge cities know how to attract smart people, and keep them interested and engaged (JP).  
 Businesses require people who are good at doing their job, whatever it might be - eg taxi drivers who know the destinations (GR).  
 Sydney shades Melbourne as a knowledge city because it has a concentration of high quality business services (MS).  
 Knowledge is the connection of the important with the important (JC).
 Scientists discover knowledge that exists; engineers discover new knowledge (GR)
 Many knowledge cities have particular specializations: Austin has music; Barcelona culture; Helsinki telecommunications; Melbourne sport (TY)

Day 2: 
 Knowledge worker is not a robust concept: the most important characteristics of workers is no longer knowledge, but energy, willingness, drive, passion and enthusiasm, along with imagination, as we find in the arts; these could be labelled ‘artful workers’ (GS).
 The next wave of innovation after ICT will be about resource efficiency (JM). 
 Business parks, such as the one at Ryde in Sydney, are poorly designed as they are sterile, and not good places for people; how can you bring the social and cultural elements into these kinds of spaces (from the floor).
 Humans are exceptional because of their ability to learn from experience and adapt; we don’t yet know the impact of extensive use of social technology on the human brain or on the core skills that have made us such a resilient species (SG).
 I believe in the crowd and the cloud (PW).

Day 3: 
 City size matters as large cities have the largest cluster of creative people; but medium sized cities have a greater proportion of creative people (ML).  
 Based on the European experience, there are four kinds of creative cities: national hub cities; satellite concentrations linked to the hub; clusters of specialization; quaint cities with distinctive urban amenity (ML).  
 Having the right kind of diversity in cities is more important than strategies focused on specialization (BA).  
 Big cities often have week connectivity between universities and industry (BA). 
 The ‘people climate’ of cities is very important (BA).

A highlight for me was the presentation by Brian McMahon (Parsons Brinkerhoff) on the ‘Emergence of the Flinders Knowledge Hub (Knowledge Oriented Development) in Adelaide’.  

The 3rd Knowledge Cities World Summit was held in Melbourne from the 16-19th November 2010.  By my reckoning there were about 270 participants, of whom about 120 were from outside Australia.  (19/11/10)


The government’s current attention to the international student experience in Australia and the sustainability of international education is long overdue. 

The IRU group of universities should be especially pleased.  Regularly measuring and benchmarking our international students across a wide range of aspects of their experiences in Australia helps the IRU universities determine what our students are happy with and what they are not, and try to remedy the problems we find.  It is gratifying, but only momentarily, that the whole group of universities perform exceptionally well in comparison with the other Australian universities.  

It should not encourage complacency.  We should not think that because we are the ‘leading’ universities in this aspect of international education we simply need to assert it and it will continue to be the case.  Such thinking would be un-Australian.

This IRU Forum is titled ‘Providing an inclusive campus and community experience for international students’.  The Forum’s focus is both the on-campus and off-campus student experience.  

The recent release of the ‘International Students Strategy for Australia’ provides a context for our discussions.  It establishes a national framework across four areas: student wellbeing; quality (ESOS and the AQF); consumer protection; and  better information.

It says that in addition to the education experience, ‘governments and providers must consider the broader issues that can impact on student wellbeing, such as accommodation, work-related matters, and health and safety issues’.  Of course.  

While the focus of the national strategy, and of the actions of universities, is on practical policies and strategies, there are also advocates in universities for a human rights approach to international students. It is not clear to me where this argument is heading, as most of the current discussion is about principles and international human rights frameworks. But it is not to be ignored.

In contrast, the Forum is an opportunity for sharing practices, for discussion, and for reflection on what we do.  I hope that each and everyone one of us can leave tomorrow having found at least two or three innovations that we might take back to our universities for consideration.  

[Introduction to the IRU Forum on ‘Providing an inclusive campus and community experience for international students’, Flinders University Victoria Square 15-16th November] (14/11/10)


The 2nd Nankai-Flinders Forum on The Political Economy of Sino-Australian Economic Cooperation was held in Tianjin on the 7th of November.  Speakers included the Vice-Mayor of Tianjin, Ren Xuefeng and the Australian Ambassador, Geoff Rabey.  Altogether there were 19 presentations.  

The take home message, from an Australian perspective, was the significant level of integration of China-Australia trade, and the importance of progressing a broader agenda that can add diversity and resilience to the economic relations between the two countries.  At the same time, Hilary Clinton’s visit to Australia reminded us of American concerns about China’s power.  Australia has strong, but different, links with the USA and China, and keeping a balance between them will not be easy.

Tianjin’s economy is booming.  I first visited the city 25 years ago, when it was struggling to develop the Tianjin Economic Development Area (TEDA) and move its industrial base to a higher level.  It has changed a lot since then, but probably more so in the last three or four years than in the previous decade.  It’s not yet the new Shanghai, but there is a buzz about initiatives, such as the Bin Hai New Area.  (9/11/10)


The International Students Strategy 2010-2014 prepared by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has finally been released.  (1/11/10)


The Minister for Tertiary Education, Chris Evans, made a speech on ‘The Future of Australian International Education’ last week. It was an eloquent defence of the government’s recent policy decisions, placing them in the context of a commitment to a reform agenda.  The tone is along the lines of the ‘you have to break eggs to make an omelette’ - my cliche, not his.  Sure has been a lot of broken eggs, mainly in the form of current and future job losses.  The new omelette will be the better for it.  But could we have achieved the same quality improvements in the sector with less collateral damage?  (31/10/10)


I recently visited Korea to attend the Council of the International Network of Universities. Kyung Hee University hosted the INU meeting at their campus in Suwon, about 30 kilometres south of Seoul. 

I am currently drafting the introductory chapter for a book on Asian Cities that Stephen Hamnett and I are editing.  I brought with me the draft chapter on Seoul by Syong-kyu Ha for a final read, so I was interested to see some of the Seoul region while I was there.

Suwon is located in Gyeonggi Province, into which Seoul overflows.  The bus from Incheon International Airport headed southeast, slicing across the peri urban region, taking 90 minutes to get to Suwon.  Greater Seoul contains about 40% of South Korea’s total population. It shows. There are massive areas of high rise urban development practically the whole journey from Incheon to Suwon.

Suwon itself has a population of over one million. I walked around the Yeongtong retail and entertainment area adjacent to my hotel.  Two things struck me.  

First, it is dominated by relatively small eating places, bars, shops and entertainment venues.  The places are not just at ground level, but vertically distributed up the floors of the central area’s buildings. This gives it an interesting dense and cluttered feel.  

Secondly the rectangular block-like buildings around the centre are plasted with garish advertising from top to bottom.  I see this as yet another kind of inner city art.  I am not a purist.  But I enjoyed walking around the area during the day and at dusk, when all the advertising lights are switched on.  (27/10/10)


Most of the Asian hotels I stay in are very good.  The rooms always have reasonable internet access and are very comfortable.  And there is always an innovation or two to absorb.

I have noticed a recent trend to have a bathroom with a glass wall separating it from the sleeping area.  I am mostly by myself, so it makes little difference.  The bathroom gets more light, and you can look at the city while having a shower or brushing your teeth.  If you wanted to. It might be there are other reasons for the trend, but I am no going to speculate.

On a different note, I recently stayed in the Hotel Landmark in Suwon, a satellite city of Seoul.  My room was on the 7th floor.  On the window sill was a box labeled ‘Simplicity Descending Life Line’.  The instructions are in Korean, but there were some helpful diagrams.  If there is a fire, you attach the line in your room, put on the harness, jump out the window, and abseil down to the ground.  Simple enough, unless you experience vertigo or are sane enough to recognise your limitations.  (25/10/10)


Just sent off a draft paper reviewing the UN Habitat’s book titled Planning Sustainable Cities. It will be published in Geographical Research in mid 2011. (20/9/10)


My presentation to the IEAA/LH Martin leadership course was titled “The politics of international education: influencing public policy and relationship building with state and federal governments”.  The second module of the program was delivered at Flinders’ Victoria Square campus in August.  (3/9/10)


The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation has recently released its report on Australia’s International Research Collaborations.  It points in the right direction.

International collaboration in research is on the increase, yet in order to keep up the pace, Australian researchers must be better supported in building their international connections.  The Report has a number of recommendations directed at making it easier for researchers to come to Australia through more supportive visa arrangements.  

There is also a real need for Australian researchers to build collaborative links in countries such as China and India, where research capacity is increasing rapidly (China), or likely to over the next decade (India).  The Reps’ Report endorses this, advocating the revitalisation of the science counsellor positions in embassies, and ensuring they are located in China and India, in addition to Washington and Brussels.

The somewhat ad hoc and small scale funding support for international research collaboration is a recurring theme in the Report.  For example, the future of the International Science Linkages program, currently under review, needs to be clarified and, if necessary, a successor program put in place.

What impact do parliamentary reports have on the public agenda?  They often deal with significant issues, and give them an airing.  It now rests with the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, and Cabinet, to make some significant changes.  (4/7/10)  


The AUQA auditors met at the chilly Gold Coast.  Going into the meeting I was hoping to get a clearer idea of what is happening with the issue of national standards, and where we stand on AUQA’s successor, the organisation known as TEQSA.  

The discussion on standards was a big improvement on the conversation at the comparable meeting in 2009.  Meaningful standards are not easy to define.   The government focuses on five different standards: provider accreditation, defined in the National Protocols;  the qualification (we are waiting on the Australian Qualifications Framework revamp); research (the ERA agenda); and information available to students (the My University website).  

The fifth standard centres on teaching and learning, and that is what most of the discussion has been about and was about today. Not much has been resolved, and it will not be for some time, such is the complexity of the issue.  

The conversation, however, is more grounded than it was before.  There are fewer white knights charging in.  Instead there are principles evolving around the need for clarity about the purpose of the exercise, the information needed to judge standards, the significance of adjusting to risk, and the importance of transparency.  It might not sound much, but to me it’s progress.

I know little more about plans for TEQSA.  A likely election later this year will slow the government down even more. I do know that AUQA will now continue in place until 2012, enabling it to complete the current cycle 2 university audits.  This makes sense. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the last session of the day, when TEQSA was discussed, as I had to get to the airport.  (30/6/10)


We have been exploring new ways of building significant research collaborations in China.  A delegation of 18 Flinders staff recently spent a few days in Hunan University and Central South University, two elite ‘985’ universities located in Changsha, Hunan Province.  

One day in each was devoted to seminar presentations; the second day to one-on-one meetings between staff with similar research interests.  The events were the result of the significant groundwork put into establishing the connection by a number of staff especially Prof Chris Franco and A/Prof Zhang Wei from medical biotechnology.

As usually happens, our Chinese hosts entertained us with excellent banquets and convivial toasts.  Hunan, the home province of Chairman Mao, is known for its delicious hot food.

We have agreed on the next steps, and have identified key individuals in each university to take responsibility.  (10/6/10)


Only China could mount an event of the magnitude of the Shanghai Expo. It took me and my colleagues a day to walk around the main site, with a few brief food and drink stops and a visit to just a single pavilion.  

One hundred and forty or so pavilions are spread across the Pudong and Shanghai site.  A couple are as big as the MCG.  Each is designed to outdo the other with its inventiveness, elegance, and statement about the future.  

The crowds flocked to the imposing bright red China pavilion; day tickets were unavailable shortly after the opening in the morning.  Waits of one, two or three hours were common for some pavilions.  A young man stood holding a sign saying the queue for the Saudi Arabian pavilion was seven hours, and still people joined it.

The Australian pavilion is mixed.  The design of the building is bold and stunningly beautiful.  The ochre shades of the rusting steel skin, with iron ore rich rocks scattered around the base, make a strong and distinctive statement.  

We queued in cattle pens for half an hour to get inside.  Once in the foyer, a mass of people shuffled up a sloping ramp, either side of which were murals and models depicting aspects of Australian history.  Despite the serious information it was presenting, it had an edgy feel.  A photo showed Kevin Rudd talking to an indigenous women wearing a tee-shirt with ‘thanks’ emblazoned across the front.    A couple of puppets of television news-hounds stood watching.  Someone had a sense of the ironic.

The moving crowd came to a halt after about 50 metres.  A few young Australian attendants amused the crowd with their Chinese instructions.  We waited, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a claustrophobic corridor, before filing into the main theatre inside the pavilion.  

The audio-visual display was impressive, with circular screens appearing from beneath the floor accompanied by loud music.   Three cartoon children, one white, one indigenous and one Asian, exchanged views about their plans for the future.  Australia, by implication is the land of opportunity for the young.  

The display then was overtaken by digital designs and flashy photography highlighting Australia as a tourist destination.  The audience started leaving two or three minutes before the end.  I got a sense the message, whatever it was, had not grabbed them.  

Leaving the theatre we walked down a sloping corridor, with names of sponsors on the walls, into the foyer, past the gift shop, and out into the sun.  The experience dissipated quickly.  

Afterwards we talked over a Nescafe (the best we could find at the time) about the impact of the pavilion and shared a sense that the message needed to be clearer.  We, of course, thought it should more emphatically bring out the attractiveness of Australia’s education assets, as well as being a tourism destination.

The previous day 500,000 people visited the Expo.  The visitors to the Australian pavilion were overwhelmingly Chinese.  They took numerous photos.  I hope they came away with a positive feel about Australia.  (6/6/10)


A short video summary of the APAI Conference video held at the Gold Coast has been posted on YouTube.  APAIE stands for Asia Pacific Association for International Education, by the way.  (5/6/10)


The first issue of the International Journal of Knowledge-Based Development has been published.  A sample of the journal, with the papers from the first issue, is available on-line.  (25/5/10)


My presentation on “International students’ language skills: the needs of knowledge based development and global citizenship” at the NEAS Conference in Sydney.  (14/5/10)


Odd headline for an article on Flinders programs with Nankai University: ‘Just don’t mention the Tiananmen Square massacre’.  (5/5/10)


I have only just managed to read Skills Australia’s Australian Workforce Futures: A National Development Strategy, which was released in February.  Much attention was given to discussion of the proposed Skilled Occupation List, as this will be significant for international students wanting to stay on in Australia after completing their awards.  

The main focus of the Report, however, is about lifting workforce participation and productivity.  It advocates an increase in tertiary education enrolments of 3% per annum until 2025, which would, of course, cost the government to implement.  About $660 million per annum, to be precise.  (26/4/10)


Bruce Baird’s final report, Stronger, Simpler, Smarter ESOS: Supporting International Students, is now available.  Its observations on problems facing international students in Australia are generally well founded.  So too are the recommended changes to the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000.  

Inevitably, though, the legislative changes will be blunt instruments, adding to the workload of numerous educational institutions, and not always zeroing in on the real targets of complaints and the problem organisations within the sector.  But it is hard to see how it could be done differently.  

In the end, we are looking for improvements in the quality of international education across the sector.  The gains for the education providers will be more satisfied students, and this will enable Australian education to remain competitive internationally.  Some of our competitors have seen Australia’s woes as presenting an opportunity for them.  It will be a short-term advantage.  None have national legislation in place to protect international students, nor the mechanisms  and data for understanding how international students cope with their experiences.  It is generally left to the institutions, or local jurisdictions.

Government reports on international education can sometimes sound patronising; this one doesn’t.  It acknowledges the openness of the sector and the willingness of students and others to express their views frankly and without fear.  Baird also acknowledges that ‘the majority of providers are doing the right thing’.  

The ESOS Act was reviewed a few years back, and many in universities put in a sustained effort to ensure that the needs of both governments and education providers were met.  Since the election of the Labor government we have been working our way through a raft of new government proposals, and so the response to the Baird report has exhibited signs of sector-fatigue. 

There are many Taskforces all reporting on the international student experience, and all dealing with much the same kinds of issues.  This one has a hard edge, because it will result in detailed changes to an Act.  The report by the Council of Australian Governments is circulating in draft format, and should be out soon.  (20/3/10)


“Pacific Rim nations consider trade deal”. Officials from eight Pacific Rim countries meet in Australia this week for negotiations which could potentially reshape regional trade relationships.

The 5-day talks, which begin in Melbourne today, bring together senior diplomatic officials from Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States. The discussions are expected to set the framework for negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP which could in the future include the major economies of China, Japan and South Korea and key Southeast Asian nations.

Presenter: Sen Lam
Speakers: Professor Dean Forbes, deputy vice-chancellor from Flinders University, in South Australia (15/3/10)


A few weeks back the Government released Australia to 2050: future challenges. The 2010 intergenerational report. Despite its origins in the Treasury, it paints an impressive big picture view of where Australia is, and might continue to be, heading.  The challenges facing us include an ageing population, escalating health care costs, and yet-to-be managed climate change.  Increasing labour productivity is central to long-term economic strength.

The Report is, not surprisingly, clearly tied into the Government’s current agenda, and its future intentions.  In that sense it is a Government positioning statement, seeking to persuade us that policies are being forged for the present but with an eye clearly fixed on the long-term future.

I inevitably focused on the Report’s views on education, universities and the knowledge economy.  There is not much there other than figures on funding for higher education and an acknowledgement that improved education participation is important to productivity.  There is no mention of international education at all, and only an occasional nod to immigration.  

Overall, it’s a Report built around some of the main statistical measures of the economy, and projections forward.  There is a lot of linear thinking but relatively little vision, and not much nuance.  Perhaps that is why there has been little interest in the media since the launch of the Report.  (13/3/10)


The Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) annual meeting was held in Washington DC this year.  It was my first.  Several colleagues had told me the AIEA hosted the most informative discussions of international education matters in American universities.  Based on what I heard in DC, I am inclined to agree.  Australian Education International in Washington, primarily Yvonne Oberhollenzer and John Hayton, had organised the program for six senior international education managers from Australia.

The snow over the previous week or two had been the heaviest in a century.  It remained piled on the side of the roads, slowing traffic and confining pedestrians to narrow channels on the footpaths.  Having experienced a long, hot Adelaide summer, the coldness was refreshing, and it was not too difficult to walk the streets, despite the risks from the slippery ice (although Kim Beazley may have a different view).

I thought the presentations on the outreach activities of American universities were well informed; they have good financial support, but also have a fair amount of experience in these matters.  Discussion on reform movements in the US, paralleling the Bologna process, revealed the barriers inhibiting change, especially because of the absence of a nation-wide approach to universities. The  discussion of quality assurance focused on the sharp contrast between the American focus on accreditation and institutional QA, and the national emphasis in Australia.

The luncheon plenary address by Arthur Levine, President of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, was a delight.  His thoughts on the nature of university education were sardonic, self-deprecating, and very funny.  An excellent lunch-time speaker.  (20/2/10)


A connection has been building between international education and Australia’s strengthening knowledge economy.  Immigration policy has been a critical element, facilitating a sophisticated (though imperfect) range of opportunities for international students and graduates to progress through to permanent residence and citizenship.  It is now under threat.

The program has, arguably, been too successful, if judged by sheer numbers.  A massive influx of students flowed into vocational education programs oriented to jobs on the Migration Occupations in Demand List (the MODL).   The result was a dramatic increase in the number of hastily formed private colleges, particularly in Melbourne.  Many were geared to meeting demand primarily from a few states in northern India.  Questions began to be asked about the sustainability of international education, based on concerns about the quality of many new education providers, and their fit with the labour market.

When random attacks on Indian students were reported in mid 2009, student safety issues exacerbated concerns by students about the precarious future of colleges, and snowballed with media reporting on negative student opinion.  The Indian media also took an interest, fanning outrage among xenophobic nationalists, leading to demonstrations and protests, and catapulting the issue across the world.

A response in Australia was necessary.  State governments tightened up on private colleges, and the universities devised a Ten-Point Plan to address concerns about student well-being.  Taskforces and inquiries were set-up all around the country.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s (DIAC) response was to significantly tighten processes leading to the awarding of student visas in India, dramatically reducing the number of students able to come to Australia.  More significant changes by DIAC are to follow and are going to impact right across the international student program.

The risk is that DIACs actions will discard the peas with the pods.

Australia had been nudging along a pathway leading to a significant strengthening of the knowledge economy.  Central to this is making it possible for international students when they graduate to stay in Australia, even if only for a few years, and contribute to research, innovation and commercialisation.  Australia as a talent bank, into which international students both deposit and withdraw, depends on a well-balanced and efficient nexus between immigration, labour-force requirements, innovation policy and higher education.

However there are multiple agendas within government and not all align with the need to build these aspects of Australia’s knowledge economy.  DIAC is now fuelling the population debate, and seems to have decided that immigration numbers must be reduced, along with the rate of Australia’s population growth.  Invariably students (and refugees) will feel the effects.

Securing a niche in the global knowledge economy is more complex and less easily managed by the media than immigration.  The Cutler Report (Venturous Australia) called for a strategic alignment between Australia’s aspirations as a leading knowledge economy and its immigration strategy.  Now the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation is looking into Australia’s international research collaborations.  It is an opportunity to again make some key points.

Most importantly, the immigration-education nexus needs to be built, not dismantled.  This includes thinking about how Australia can foster its talent bank function.  

We need to focus on building genuine knowledge cities and universities that  attract talented undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers.  

In parallel, much better integration is required between the forging of strategic international research links, domestic innovation policy, and the international education strategies of universities. 

This would include an expanded and much more strategic approach to the Australian Endeavour scholarships, and a more supportive approach to short and long term immigration issues.  

And finally, it requires a better resourced and more strategic approach to building collaborative links in countries that are going to shape the global knowledge economy in the second half of the 21st Century: China and India to begin with, and in due course, countries such as Vietnam, Brazil and Russia.

Not everything can be done at once.  Getting right the nexus between immigration and international education is probably the most critical issue of the day.  It is the issue where there is the greatest risk of undoing the good work of the last decade.  (31/1/10)


Drafts of chapters for a book that Stephen Hamnett and I are editing have been arriving; five so far, with another six to come soon.  We are concurrently thinking about our (8,000 words!) introductory chapter.  

The themes of the book are planning, risks and resilience in the very large cities of the Pacific Rim.  Mostly analysts talk about urban resilience in the face of natural disaster eg the recent earthquake in Port-au-Prince.  The resilience of the Pacific Rim megacities can be the response to environmental catastrophies, but it is also expressed in their resilience in the face of continuing rapid population growth, the spread of cities over vast distances, and the growing, complex new global roles of these cities.  The grit of past and current residents in overcoming the obstacles created by urban growth is to be admired. We want to explore these themes. (17/1/10)


The tragic news overnight of the death of a recent Indian graduate in Melbourne will keep media attention on the well-being of international students/graduates in Australia.  Universities are already expecting lower acceptances from India and China; this incident will compound it.  Collectively we must ensure the key recommendations of the many reports now appearing on international student welfare get due attention with actions to follow.  What a sad issue to have to deal with first day back at work. (4/1/10)


Australian Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010


  1. Bullet Twitter map

  2. Bullet India and China

  3. Bullet Looking back on 2010

  4. Bullet Student visa program

  5. Bullet 200 years

  6. Bullet Making gravy

  7. Bullet Knowledge cities

  8. Bullet The student experience

  9. Bullet Sino-Australian cooperation

  10. Bullet International students strategy

  11. Bullet A defence of policy changes

  12. Bullet Seoul city

  13. Bullet Asian hotels

  14. Bullet Planning sustainable cities

  15. Bullet Leadership in international education

  16. Bullet International research collaboration

  17. Bullet Quality assurance

  18. Bullet Research collaborations in China

  19. Bullet Shanghai expo

  20. Bullet APAIE conference

  21. Bullet Knowledge-based development

  22. Bullet International students English

  23. Bullet Masters program headline

  24. Bullet Future workforce

  25. Bullet A smarter esos

  26. Bullet Trans Pacific trade partnership

  27. Bullet 2010 intergenerational report

  28. Bullet Washington DC 2010

  29. Bullet Attracting talent

  30. Bullet Asian cities

  31. Bullet Student safety