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Australia: safeguarding the rights of international students

The Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Helen Szoke released, at the Australia International Education Conference held at the beginning of October in Melbourne, a document that received much public attention. Entitled Principles to promote and protect the human rights of international students, this document is very similar to a ‘bill of rights’ for foreign nationals studying in Australia, and is meant to act as a guide both for education institutions aiming to develop international student policies and support services, as well as for international students and their representative bodies, showing them how their rights could be better promoted and protected. The principles, developed in cooperation with a wide range of stakeholder organisations, are grouped under four headlines

  • Enhancing the human rights of international students;
  • Ensuring all international students have access to human rights and freedom from discrimination protections;
  • Understanding the diverse needs of international students; and
  • Empowering international students during their stay in Australia

and underline key conditions for their proper implementation.

This initiative comes after in 2009 several Indian students were subject to a series of violent attacks in Australia (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, June 2009), which generated an immediate drop in the number of Indian applicants to the Australian educational institutions. Australia is one of the major study destinations of foreign students worldwide, having the largest proportion of international students in OECD countries, followed by the United Kingdom and Austria, according to OECD figures for the year 2009.

The Principles