Charles Sturt University has welcomed a NSW government proposal to incentivise international students to complete tertiary study in regional areas.
The state government floated the idea of providing financial incentives for students to move regionally at the Council of Australian Governments meeting last week.
CSU international student liason officer Matt Hilder said quality of education and “wanting the Australian experience” were the two main reasons students studied in regional areas, particularly in Orange.
He said he thought the proposal was worth exploring and could be beneficial for students and for regional areas.
“I guess my first thought was “fantastic” but they just need to maintain an adequate support network,” Mr Hilder said.
The largest contingent of international students in Orange are dentistry students from Canada, physiotherapy students from Korea and agriculture students from the subcontinent and Africa.
Mr Hilder said the experience of being outside a major metropolis was one of the drawcards.
Most students who come out here are looking to integrate with the domestic studentsCSU's Matt Hilder
“Wide open spaces, fresh air, four whole seasons – you see students building piles of leaves, we occasionally get snow in winter, they’ll head out to the lake and to the surrounding villages,” he said.
However, transport was a major issue for international students, and while CSU has worked closely with bus providers, it can be an issue for students who don’t drive.
He also said multicultralism and distance from home occasionally caused an issue, with the latter not an issue restricted to regional areas.
“On the odd occasion students might not feel they have enough cultural opportunities in the early stages, but council have a strong multicultural council and most students who come out here are looking to integrate with the domestic students,” Mr Hilder said.
Second-year dentistry student Bishoy Labib hails from Canada said while living in Orange wasn’t without its challenges, he’d still recommend students consider heading to the Central West.
“Orange is a unique town with several advantages and a few challenges,” he said.
“Although Orange caters to all of one’s needs including a variety of grocery stores, dining experiences and outdoor activities, having access to these locations is at first a challenge shared amongst international students due to the location of campus in relation to the town.”
However, he said student liason officers such as Mr Hilder and other students helped him and other students settle in.
He also added the nightlife wasn’t as vibrant as major cities.
“Although Orange hosts several food and wine festivals, someone who indulges in the nightlife and entertainment urban cities offer may have personal challenges when settling into a quiet town,” Mr Labib said.
Mr Labib said the cost of living in Orange was a positive, and his chances to practice dentistry in a regional area would give him more opportunities to learn to ply his trade across different areas.
He said he picked the regional course for family reasons – his grandparents lived in rural areas and had dental issues, and rural dental hygene was something he wanted to help.
The unique nature of the Orange course – which Mr Labib said was one of the few dentistry courses which accepted international students – was another reason he selected to study in regional Australia.
CSU vice-chancellor Andrew Vann said the university “welcomes” the proposed plan, but said easing population pressure on major cities shouldn’t be the main driver.
“Regional centres are thriving, vibrant communities that offer incredible opportunity to students, particularly those who are seeking a unique experience in a community environment,” Mr Vann said.
“Long-term government investment is possibly the most influential aspect to the development of regions.
“With more students and families in the regions, the government must support the long-term infrastructure required to grow economic development: housing, health, transport links between regional and metropolitan centres, and jobs.
“Institutions and the government have responsibility for marketing our regional cities and communities, actively communicating the benefits students can receive by studying at a non-metropolitan university.”
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