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Recent policy update
China announces major reform to vocational education sector
On 13 February 2019, the Chinese State Council published its “Implementation plan on National Vocational Education Reform” (in Chinese), signalling a significantly strengthened focus on vocational education. The plan prioritises reform of vocational education in China to better equip the labour force to meet the demands of the economy now and into the future. 
Message from the Minister Counsellor 

As I write this, I realise I have now been in this role for over six months, and wow has time flown!  We have now well and truly embarked on the Year of the Pig, and thus far it has been both busy and very interesting.

We were reminded in the recent Two Sessions that education remains a major priority for China, and particularly the vocational education and training sector. China recently released its Vocational reform implementation plan, which seeks to overhaul the entire VET framework.  If you haven’t seen it already, we pulled together a brief overview of the plan which is available here. There are bound to be new areas for cooperation between our two countries under this plan and those that will follow it, and we look forward to exploring those into the near future.

Our office has been busy organising a number of provincial trips to update our information on the engagement between our two countries, current priorities and potential areas of collaboration and exchange.  In the last few months, we have visited Xiamen, Suzhou and Hong Kong.  Soon we will travel to Wuhan, Tianjin, Nanjing, Xi’An and Shanghai.  I hope that we will also get an opportunity to visit Chongqing, Chengdu and Kunming in the coming months.  I look forward to meeting with Chinese counterparts in each place and to exchanging ideas and, where possible, visiting sites where our education exchange and cooperation takes place.

I was very excited to have the opportunity to meet with Mr Zong Wa,Minister-Counsellor (Education) at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, Australia when he was in Beijing recently. It was wonderful to exchange experiences and ideas for our two countries strengthened cooperation over the forward years.

I am grateful for the contribution of Professor Greg McCarthy to this newsletter – please see his article below, written just as he had left his post as BHP Billiton Chair Professor of Australian Studies at Peking University in Beijing. We appreciated Professor McCarthy’s engagement with our Section during his term and wish him all the very best for the future.  We welcome Dr Pookong Kee to the role, and to Beijing.

The study year is now back in full swing in both China and Australia.  I trust that students in both places are well into their study routines, but hopefully with some time set aside to appreciate the change in season around them.

I wish you every success for 2019,

Brooke


Photo of snowy Great Wall, taken by Brooke's Hudsband Rob

Long standing partnership with the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE)
 
The Education and Research Section and the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) have been close partners for many years. Our joint research report on Chinese-Australian Transnational Higher Education in China published last year has received positive comments from Chinese and Australian education experts.

Since arriving in Beijing, Minister-Counsellor Brooke Hartigan and First-Secretary Jarrod Ross have visited the CEAIE multiple times for official calls including accompanying Austrade’s Senior Industry Specialist International Education – Rebecca Hall. Both Brooke and Jarrod have also been happy to present at CEAIE events in recent months including the flagship event - the China Annual Conference for International Education in October 2018.
 
Photo: Australian Embassy Education and Research Section visiting CEAIE in November 2018
 
 
Photo: Rebecca Hall, Austrade’s Senior Industry Specialist International Education and the Australian Embassy Education and Research Section visiting CEAIE 
 
In December 2018, the Education and Research Section also participated in the opening ceremony of the CEAIE-Study Melbourne Language and Internship Program. This program was jointly launched by the CEAIE and Victorian Government and saw two groups of Victorian students come to China (Beijing and Chengdu) for a 3 week study and 5 week internship.
 
Photo: Ms Hartigan attending the opening ceremony of CEAIE-Study Melbourne Language and Internship program in Beijing
 
The Australian Government will continue to strengthen collaboration with Chinese counterparts including the CEAIE, to encourage more active communication and exchange between our two countries.
Australia-China Education Business Planning Summit
 
On 10 January 2019, Brooke and Jarrod participated in the Australia-China Education Business Planning Summit organised by Austrade. The event was an opportunity for agents to hear about Australian Government policy updates, a review of 2018 and an outline of work priorities for 2019.
 
Brooke provided participants with an overview of 2018 noting that institutional collaboration in the education sector remained strong and the number of Chinese students in Australia reached an all-time high of more than 205,000.

She also pointed to key events such as the 2018 World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) World Congress in Melbourne, which was attended by a large Chinese delegation and to exciting multilateral developments like the commencement of the Tokyo Convention (aka: UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Convention on Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education), signalling a major step forward in qualifications recognition.
 
Looking ahead to 2019, Brooke indicated that the Education and Research Section would continue its work to strengthen government to government relations, and to finalise with the Chinese Ministry of Education an updated Memorandum of Understanding and joint work plan on mutual education priorities. The MOU and plan will guide strategic education collaboration between our two countries and set out specific projects and initiatives in support of our shared goals.  

Photo: Attendees of the Australia-China Education Business Planning Summit 2018

The 1st Peking University World Chinese Forum and the 13th International Conference on Chinese Language Teaching and Research

The 13th International Conference on Chinese Language Teaching and Research & the 1st Peking University World Chinese Forum was held on 8 November 2018 in Beijing. The event was jointly sponsored by the International Society for Chinese Language Teaching, Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) and Peking University. Brooke attended the events and gave a speech at the forum. 

The theme of the conference was “International Chinese Language Teaching, Research, and Development in the New Era”. Brooke shared information on the Australian Government’s language promotion and cultural understanding initiatives and on Chinese language learning in Australia using her personal experience.

 

Photo: Ms Hartigan delivering speech at the 1st Peking University World Chinese Forum

 
There are currently 14 Confucius Institutes and almost 70 Confucius Classrooms across Australia – more than one third of Australian universities have established such institutes. More broadly, Chinese language learning has grown exponentially at school level.
 
In 2015, the Australian Government initiated a trial program called Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA), to promote language learning in preschools across Australia. ELLA consists of a series of play based APPs which allow young Australians to engage with languages other than English in a fun and informative way. ELLA has since been rolled out nationally with Mandarin the most popular language with a third of preschools choosing it.
 
The increased interest in Chinese language in Australia has helped facilitate greater student and scholar mobility between the two countries. Language learning is not only a tool for communication, but a bridge to better understanding each other’s culture. We look forward to more Australian students learning Chinese languages and more people to people links established between Australia and China.

International Forum on Higher Education& Annual Academic Conference 2018

The 18th International Forum on Higher Education & Annual Academic Conference 2018 took place on 2-4 November 2018 in Ningbo. The event was hosted by China Association of Higher Education and attended by more than 1,000 education experts from across the world.  

The theme of the forum was “Accelerating the Construction of ‘Double-First Class Initiative’.  Brooke delivered a speech at the forum sharing Australia’s experience in internationalisation of higher education, including the implementation of Australia’s National Strategy for International Education 2025.


Photo: Ms Hartigan delivering speech at the 18th International Forum on Higher Education & Annual Academic Conference 2018

2018 marked another year of strong growth for Australia’s foreign enrolment with double-digit growth in student numbers. Higher education saw the largest growth of 14%, with significant increase in post-graduate numbers. Chinese students made up one third of the total international enrolment in 2018, an increase of 11% compared to 2017.  

Student groups

Last year, the Australian Embassy welcomed 14 student mobility groups to the compound – a total of 280 students and staff members. They were in Beijing as part of the institution’s mobility program, the Australian Government’s Endeavour Mobility Grants or New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarships/grants. 

Last November, we hosted our largest ever student group – 84 students and staff members from Victoria’s Bialik College. They were in China on a 9 day visit to explore Australia’s relationship with China and to gain a better understanding of China. Australia’s Ambassador to China, Her Excellency Jan Adams AO welcomed the students and noted the importance of education as part of the China-Australia bilateral relationship. She also gave the students a glimpse into the day of life of an Ambassador.

 

Photo: Ambassador Adams with Bialik college students at the Australian Embassy in Beijing

Australian university students are highly mobile. The annual survey of Australian universities found that students from 35 Australian universities had undertaken 44,045 international study experiences in 2016. Student exchange programs and faculty-led study tours were the most popular types of mobility. China was the second most favoured destination for student mobility, following the USA, and China continues to be the most favoured destination for the Australian Government NCP program.

Farewell story from Professor Gregory McCarthy
Former BHP Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University

As I am about to end my time as BHP Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University let me offer a few reflections on my experience as Chair and my association with the Australian Studies in China community and the many academics I have met in China, notably at Peking University’s School of International Studies. 

What has been abundantly evident in my three years as BHP Chair of Australian Studies and Peking University is the level of globalisation of higher education. Australia and China are a part of that flow with students, academics and knowledge flowing across the oceans by plane and electronically.



The internationalization of higher education between Australia and China is a solid foundation for developing and enhancing mutual respect and understanding between the two countries. As is well known, in 2018 there were about 166,000 Chinese students studying in Australia (of whom it is expected 80% will return to China) and coming the other way about 5,000 Australian students are studying in China. According to the late Graeme Hugo (2011), between 2003 to 2010, there were 7,266 Chinese researchers who gained permanent residency in Australia.  Hugo defined this as a brain-gain for Australia but warned that there were negligible flows of Australian researchers coming to China. Hugo’s untimely death came at the very moment when the flows back to China were increasing globally in part due to China’s Ten Thousand talent program, released in 2008, which recruited about 8,000 researchers by 2018, and in part due to the annual 18% increase in China’s R&D expenditure. As well, China has set the goal of 550,000 overseas students by 2020, (now numbering 440,000), making China the fourth-ranked international study destination, by international student population – after US, UK, and Australia.
 
Hugo’s cautionary note of the negative effects of the two-way flows between China and Australian is beginning to be rectified by the sheer volume of Chinese students returning from Australia to China and the growth in Chinese students graduating with Australian PhDs returning to China over the last decade. However, following the US-led turn against Chinese academic flows, there has been mutterings in Australia that perhaps globalisation is now swinging too far in China’s favour. This shift away from globalisation to educational protectionism needs to be unfabled and in this context, I would like to raise three questions. Firstly, what can we learn from history when knowledge becomes distorted by geo-politics; secondly, what can we learn and understand as the driving success of Chinese elite universities, taking my experience at Peking University as a case study; lastly, how can the Australia-China educational relationship continue to gain from globalising higher education.
 
In contemplating the first question, let us travel back to the 16th Century for a moment in time that can offer insight for the contemporary instance.  In his majestic book Unfabling the East, Jürgen Osterhammel (2018) argues that in the formative period of the Enlightenment, there was a space for conceptualizing alternative civilisation on equal terms, but this became distorted due to colonialism and imperialism in the late-19th century. In examining the diaries and travel notes of Europeans venturing to the East, he records a cosmopolitan form of appreciation of the ‘East’ in the 16th and 17th centuries where ‘Asia’ or the ‘East’ was not placed in opposition to a monolithic Europe. For Osterhammel (2018) three elements produced a changed perception of the East in Europe: firstly, European industrialization became transformed into military-might that gave European countries the ability to colonise the East. Secondly, as universities emerged in the 19th century, knowledge about the East became professionalised and fragmented with ethnography, anthropology and scientific studies coming to define the East in a marginalised manner. Thirdly, as the East was no longer imagined as a counter-weight to Europe but outside of modernity then its countries were open to conquest. Ruminating on contemporary times Osterhammel argues that to: ‘Recognise Asia as a partner of equal standing should not cause Europeans any problem (the US might find it more difficult) after all, Europe has done it before’.
 
In Osterhammel’s history the flow of travelers to Asia in the 16th and 17th Century were open minded seeking to understand rather than denigrate or distort. The issue is to ensure that the new geo-political protectionism does not retard the flows of students, academics and knowledge between Australia and China at the very moment when the exchanges are at their highest. The knowledge bases in Australia and China can act as a counter-weight against claims of Western supremacy so evident in recent debates on the superiority of Western civilization, rather, a cosmopolitan version of differing modernities or Charles Taylor’s multiple modernities should be embraced.  Recognisng that China has an equal standing with Australia is very easy to establish when one is sitting in a tea room on a Chinese university campus and hearing similar critical evaluations of respective government policies and pronouncements as one would find in Australia.  Academics are by nature cosmopolitan travelers of ideas, ready to express them in research and publicly in both Australia and China, which may come as a surprise to those not familiar with Chinese academic culture.
 
The second question is, what can we learn and understand as driving the success of Chinese elite universities in globalization, their knowledge base and world standings. First and foremost, it is obvious that a governmental commitment to nation building, through expenditure on R&D and on universities, inspired by the US example that global economies need globally ranked universities, is elevating the elite universities up the ranking ladder. Taking my experience at Peking University, a university ear-marked for national knowledge leadership, as a case study let me offer a few reflections.  In 2015 Peking University was ranked 57 in the QS ranking in 2018 it was 30. Just down the road, Tsinghua University in 2015 was ranked by the Times Higher Education at 49, in 2019 it was ranked 22.  One hears that this must be due to a systematic gaming of the ranking systems, but this tale needs ‘unfabling’. In talking to the people who make the ranking submission from these two top universities the reverse is the case there is little systemic top-down approaches, rather the rise is coming from below. Along with the 10,000-talent program, Peking University has nurtured its immense pool of undergraduate talent, aiming to ensure that 70 per cent of its undergraduate students have overseas experience in their degree. Secondly, by encouraging the brightest and best to apply for postgraduate training at prestigious overseas universities this presents the opportunity to attract the talent back to PKU. 
 
As such, all new academic appointment at PKU must have an overseas PhD degree and in my School it is estimated that around half have a PKU undergraduate degree. Thirdly, the new appointments are driven by the ‘publish or perish’ imperative to achieve high ranking journal publications to ensure tenure. Further, as many Chinese academics do their postgraduate studies in the US (or Japan) they have a strong quantitative over qualitative tradition, this tends to produce more inductive than deductive research, which facilitates both national and an international publication in top ranking journals. In addition, China’s compulsory retirement age of 60, is accelerating the changes in Chinese universities (as the class of 1978 and 1979 are reaching the 60-mark) bringing to the fore a new leadership that has been trained in both China and abroad, which can but enhance a cosmopolitan view of seeing both China and other countries on equal terms. Lastly, a notable difference between Australian and Chinese universities is the neo-Confucian respect given to past-scholars and retired professors in China, whereas in Australia they are deemed as yesterday’s men and women.
 
Given the globalisation of knowledge, it is important to ask the question how can the Australia-China educational relationship continue to gain from globalising higher education in student mobility, academic research and knowledge flows?  What is evident over the last three years is the development of Australian studies in China, not just in the growth of centers but equally in newly returned doctoral trained academics from Australia that have broadened Australian studies from its historically strong literature and linguistics bases.  The new trends have seen papers presented at the Foundation of Australian Studies in China (FASIC) and National Association of Australian Studies in China conferences on international relations, trade, education, media and communications studies, sociology and political science. Equally, the flow of recipients of FASIC and Endeavour grants to study in Australia is now very broad in fields of inquiry; auguring well for the future of Australian studies. Further, the Chinese policy of developing Area Studies has potential for new broad-based Australian studies centers in China. New models are emerging from regional provinces with joint efforts from the academy, the local government and industry. On the other side of the coin, in Australia there is a renewed interest in Area Studies at the Australian National University but regarding Asia in general the Asian Studies Association in Australia have warned of the loss of expertise in Australian universities to teach and understand such countries as China, India and Japan. However, what is evident from the Australian students coming to China is that they represent a cohort of the brightest and best talents and their commitment to both language and socio-cultural understanding is abundantly evident. What is also clear is that Australian student studying in China, are moving from short-term courses to longer engagements therein building a cosmopolitan appreciation.
 
Retuning to ‘unfabling’ the East, there now exists a knowledge space in both China and Australia for conceptualizing alternative civilisations on equal terms, but the danger of fragmentation and professional narrowness is a risk that both academies and societies need to heed, for history not to repeat itself. Given my three-year experience, I am convinced that the appreciation is growing in both countries and equal understanding is emerging, however, like Osterhammel I am less convinced, this is currently the case elsewhere. But that is another fable, readily unfabling itself. 

TEQSA issues new English language admissions guidance

An important new Guidance Note on ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) Direct Entry was issued by the Australian Government Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) in February 2019. The document supports the ELICOS Standards 2018, which strengthens the policies on ELICOS course provision.  

“ELICOS Direct Entry” refers to situations where the successful completion of an ELICOS course is a requirement under the admission arrangements for an Australian tertiary education course. 

Analysis of the visa grants data shows that in 2017, almost 70% of Chinese students who did their first ever ELICOS course went straight into higher education. 

The document outlines TEQSA’s expectations of providers offering such courses and the responsibilities of providers directly admitting students in this fashion. 

TEQSA chief executive Anthony McClaran said that the document offers clarity in the interpretation and application of the relevant standards, which protects students and English language standards in Australian higher education. 

In particular, the guidance note focuses on the need for comparable assessment outcomes, which align ELICOS direct entry pathways with other entry mechanisms and English language testing. Also covered is the need for tertiary education providers to be able to show how they have satisfied themselves that claims of comparability (e.g. IELTS) made by an ELICOS provider are credible.

The Guidance Note has been made public for the purposes of sector consultation with TEQSA welcoming questions or feedback on the material.

Alumni Story – Kate Smith

Doctoral Candidate at Tsinghua University 

Please tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Kate Smith, I just finished a PhD in Environmental Science Engineering. My study focus is drinking water supply. I did a two year Masters and a three and half year PhD - a total of five and half years at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. I also did nine months of Chinese language studies in National Taiwan University before coming to Beijing.

I had been in China since 2011. Before going to Taiwan, I worked a year and half in Nanning City of Guangxi Province for a little more than a year. I was working full time and studying Chinese during in my free time.


Photo: Kate at Tsinghua University, Beijing

How did you get here – What led you to consider study in China?

At first I didn’t plan to study full time, I came to study Chinese language because I wanted to improve my Chinese skills. I had only done a year and half of Chinese at the University of Melbourne and I was the equivalent of first year beginner.

I wanted to work and earn money while studying Chinese, so in the second semester when I was taking on a little bit too much teaching work, I had to remind myself that the main reason I’m here in China is because I wanted to improve my Chinese. I made sure that I always had free time to study Chinese every day.

When I left the mainland to study Chinese in Taiwan I had I already planned to come back to Tsinghua University and do my Masters. The quality of the university and the fact that they had a good reputation in environmental science and engineering was the reason I wanted to stay. They had a lot of people who were doing research on water, which is the field that I wanted to get into. China shared some problems that Australia also shares in terms of water so it made sense to do water research here.


Photo: Kate conducting field research in nothwest region's Gansu Province

 
How has your experience in China being compared with your expectations?

Can you imagine I spent six years of my twenties in China? It’s a rather important part of my life. I did expect to be in China for quite some time because I had finished my Bachelor’s degree and I knew China was a country with a lot of opportunities, so there was always going to be a way to stay on.

When I first came in 2010, I came for 3 weeks only and I kind of was disappointed by the Chinese food back then. I was in Shanghai and I did not use chopsticks very well so I would get oil all over myself. Those were the two things that worried me the most. But when I came back to China – to South China’s Nanning city, I actually really liked the food and I eventually learned to master chopsticks. 

I also got to learn the Chinese cultures, including the various occurrences of history, and unique systems such as the hukou system, so that I had some background info on Chinese other than simply the language.

I don’t think I had such strong stereotypes about Chinese people than say French people before I went to France.  I had studied alongside Chinese students at the University of Melbourne and got to know them very well and became friends so I was familiar with a lot of the Chinese culture.


What has been the biggest challenge since you arrived in China?

One challenge I have is not being able to read Chinese very fast. I had learnt the Chinese characters the same time as I was learning how to speak. But I have not practiced my reading and writing as much as my speaking. So if there is anything that can make my life easier now, it would be to have better skim reading skills in Chinese.

 
What impact has your Chinese education had on you? And how do you hope to maintain you connection with China? 
I think that I’ve been really lucky - I studied Chinese at one of the best schools available in Taiwan Region, and I’ve been able to do my Masters and PhD in the best university for science and engineering in China.
I have spent eight years in China so far, and six of them were in my twenties. It’s sad to leave a place you have spent many years in to move on to the next thing, and not keeping much connection afterwards. I hope with China that won’t be the case because Australia and China have a strong relationship so I hope eventually I can be in a situation that would see my China knowledge and language as a benefit, and give me an opportunity to use them.



What would you say to other Australian students thinking about studying overseas and/or China?

I started going overseas when I was really young.–  When I was learning Indonesian I went to Indonesia and lived with a host family at the age of 13, and ever since then there hasn’t been more than two years where I haven’t spent time in a country where I don’t speak the language.  In 2004, I went to France and in 2008 I went to Chile. Since 2011, I have been living and studying in China. I’m a real fan of languages and I am good at learning another language so it’s perfect for me. If you have an interest in China, then to live and study in China is definitely the thing to do. Another reason that some people come is that the universities here are top quality.

I think that China deserves people who are going to respect the opportunities that they are given. China is really great if people can take full advantage of all that China presents. I think my university and the Chinese government does a lot to provide students with opportunities here and I think that’s a really great thing.


If you could take one thing/technology/lifestyle back to Australia from China, what would it be?

From the time I was first here I would tell you it is the trains. I think the trains and the railway system here are amazing. I came before internet booking so we had to line up at the train station and buy the ticket. But even then I think the trains were convenient and efficient. I remember going on a train from China to Vietnam which was very impressive. I was down in the south of China so we couldn’t do high-speed then, but now there are more high-speed and better quality trains.

Something else that I would like to take with me is the QR code payment. When I go back to Australia I will have to take Wechat back with me. I have gotten used to swiping the QR code for payment and that is something we don’t have in Australia or at least not so much.


Describe a place/food/experience in China that you particularly enjoyed.

I really took the advantage of my time in South China to see China. I went to Hainan, Kunming and Macau. I didn’t expect to like Macau as much as I did. I was only there for a weekend but I got so much done that weekend. I really enjoyed the architecture of the casinos and the shows they had on. Macau has old style housing with Portuguese influence, which was interesting. It’s always nice to be surprised by how nice things are. I really loved the North of China, Datong of Shaanxi province.   The hanging temple was really nice and pleasant to see. The Westlake in Hangzhou was beautiful. There are plenty of incredible experiences I had with friends and host families.

 
Do you have any tips for students coming to China or thinking of coming to China?

I think that learning the Chinese language will help you get the most out of your time in China. I know that it is a massive time commitment but it’s worth it. I stayed with a host family for the first year and half and that was really great for my Chinese. That’s always a suggestion for anyone learning languages - to live with host families and interact with local people.

I would also suggest people to get the longest visa available. When I first applied, I thought I would just get a one month visa and get everything sorted within a month.  But looking back, I hoped I had more time on my visa so that I could have been be more flexible with my choices. This is just my particular situation when I came - Initially a tourist and then eventually to work. If you are on a student visa, it will be much easier.


Photo: Kate receiving testamur from Tsinghau University Vice President for Research, Professor Xue Qikun
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