The International Students’ Department (ISD) is a department within the Australian National University Student Association (ANUSA) set up to represent the interests and welfare of international students here at the ANU. There are approximately 5000 international students at the ANU whom the ISD are elected to represent.
An important component in representing international students is consultation on key changes. However, this year, changes at the University, which will profoundly impact the welfare of international students, were not communicated to students.
Two weeks ago, the ANU sent an email to all international students informing them that they would cease the application of the existing 5% cap on tuition fees for international students, from 2015 onwards. From 2015, fees will be updated every year uninhibited by a cap. This is will inevitably impact the financial security sought by international students when planning their degrees and life in Australia.
The news was a shock to the international student community who had not been consulted on the changes. by the University or the ISD. Given the ISD’s mandate to represent international students’ interest, some students were surprised such significant changes had not been communicated to international students before they were announced by the University. It is unknown, what role the ISD played in consulting with and advocating for international students in this process.
Recently the university also announced upcoming changes to accommodation policies at the ANU. Notably, there will be significant changes to the returner’s policies of the Residential Halls and Colleges to enable more first years to live in the Halls and Colleges. This will have profound impact on accommodation security, which is central to many international students as they move here to study. Such insecurity will likely add further stress and worry to their time at the ANU.
The current ISD President, Suzy Nopamornbodee, called off a meeting organised between the Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Baker, the ISD Presidential Candidates for 2015 and the former ISD President to discuss this issue. The basis of this decision was that, “this meeting involves international students (referring to the ISD Presidential candidates) with whom English may not be a second nature,” and that “some candidates may be able to pick up such information quickly and easily from a verbal medium while others may require more time to properly digest it.”
This is an important time for the ISD to play an active role in advocacy and student consultation, given the changes occurring within the University. These are issues, which have set the backdrop to the Presidential elections and the priorities for Presidential candidates seeking to represent international students at the ANU.
Muhammad Taufiq bin Suraidi was the ANUSA International Officer and ISD President for 2013