Australia sees fewer Bruneian students
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
THERE has been a drop in the number of Bruneian students going to Australia for higher education over the last six or seven years, Australian High Commissioner Todd Mercer said this week.
Speaking on the sidelines of an interactive seminar hosted by the High Commissioner at his residence, Mercer said that one particular factor that is often referred to is Australia’s strong currency.
“If that was an issue, the issue has been addressed quite substantially,” he said.
“About three years ago, the Australian dollar was at about US$1.10 and now it’s down to about US$0.85. It’s also dropped relative to the Brunei and Singapore dollar.”
Mercer disagreed with foreign news reports that cite a drop in Australian university rankings as another factor for more students choosing to pursue tertiary studies in other countries.
“I’m not sure if that’s true... we are a country of 23 million people and we have four institutions listed in the top 50 universities around the world – seven in the top 100 – and it depends on the rankings you’re looking at.
“It also really depends a lot on what you study – what the subject matter is and which university has that strength,” he said.
The High Commissioner said there was very encouraging and positive response to a recent Australian higher education fair held in Brunei.
“So I am (still) encouraged with the prospects of Bruneian students going to study in Australia.”
Another factor that had to be acknowledged was the effort made by the government of Brunei and the Ministry of Education on education in Brunei, he said.
“Universities such as UBD and ITB are growing. More Bruneian students are staying home and studying in Brunei. And under programmes like the Discovery programme at UBD, the students get that international experience as well.
“We’re very pleased as we get quite a few Bruneian students choosing to do their Discovery year in Australia,” Mercer said.
Although high costs might be a focus at the moment for many, Mercer said it was the quality of education offered by Australian universities that still draws prospective students in.
“The education experience in Australia goes beyond just what you learn in the classroom, and I don’t think there’s any question itself that the quality of education (there) is great,” he said.
“You’ve got that broader experience with exposure to international students in Australia. One plus is that you could find yourself in a class that is half Australian and the other half being foreign with students from all over the world.
“Australia has such a significant number of international students coming in, and we’re set up for that,” he added.
Although it was difficult to pinpoint the most popular courses Bruneian students were taking up in Australia, the biggest group would probably be those studying engineering that was related to oil and gas, Mercer said.
“One of the reasons for that is that we have a relationship between ITB and the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
“Beyond that, it is quite diverse,” he said.
To the High Commissioner’s knowledge, there were Bruneians taking up courses in medicine, business, economics, politics, graphic design, communications and development studies, among others, in Australia at the moment.
The Australian High Commission was looking forward to more areas of collaboration between local institutions and Australian ones, Mercer said.
“For example, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to lock in some arrangements in the next month or so for Australian universities to receive medical students from UBD. That’s very prestigious and we’re really encouraged.
“We think that sort of relationship in areas like that could lead to other areas (of collaboration in the future),” he said.
The Brunei Times