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Oz schools set for student hunt

Oz schools set for student hunt

Australian universities due in the capital Saturday to give Cambodian students

a taste of the education opportunities on offer in the land down under

Photo by: TRACEY shelton

Last year’s Australian Education Exhibition was so crowded that IDP has shifted to a larger venue to accommodate soaring interest.

DP Education's fifth annual Australian Education Exhibition is on this Saturday, and special projects officer Melissa Cockroft says she expects it to be the biggest yet, with potentially double last year's 400 attendees.

There will also be an increase in exhibitors, with 27 higher education providers advertising their institutions, 10 more than last year. "There will be 27 booths set up mostly from universities with representatives from Australia available to talk with interested students, provide information on entry requirements and help candidates fill in application forms," Cockroft said.

Cockroft said interest in study opportunities in Australia was growing through word-of-mouth with around 200 graduates of scholarship programmes in Australia stating the case for study down under. "Australia is a multicultural society," she said. "I think that is very appealing."

To accommodate the expected numbers, the organisers have switched the venue from the auditorium at the Australian Centre for Education (ACE), which was packed out last year, to the larger National Institute of Education.

IDP Education is an international enrollment service for students wishing to study in Australia. It has had an office in Cambodia since 1992 and, according to IDP counsellor Leaksoursdey Ky, it helps around 140 Cambodian students study in Australia every year. Of these, 100 support themselves through their own funds and 40 receive scholarships from the Australian government.

Leaksoursdey Ky added that Cambodian students are interested in studying in Australia for a variety of reasons, although the relatively cheap fees compared with other offshore destinations is the primary motivation, as well as Australia's close proximity to Asia.

"Students want to study in Australia because it's closer than America and the UK, tuition fees are cheaper, the weather is better than Canada, and many students have relatives or friends already settled in Australia, which offers them an immediate support network," she said.

Leaksoursdey Ky said bachelor's and master's degrees in business, IT and accounting were by far the most popular study options, as jobs in these fields were in high demand in Australia. "About 90 percent of Cambodians studying in Australia stay after they have completed their course," she said.

"Finding jobs in the business and IT sector is easy, and the salary is much better than Cambodia."

Bringing them home

The much-talked-about brain drain among Cambodia's educated population is a concern for IDP, Cockroft said. However for the 40 scholarship students studying every year, there is a stipulation in their visas that they must return home after when their degrees are completed, and they are barred from visiting Australia again for two years.

The IDP team is now conducting a tracer study to identify and measure the issues students encounter when returning to Cambodia. "We do find it difficult to get graduates to come back," Cockroft said.

"Often they don't have the same job or they find there isn't career progression. A lot of scholarship students leave their ministry jobs after a few years to work in the private sector or set up their own businesses. We are looking at ways to address this problem, such as through the Australian Alumni Association, which provides an opportunity for students to meet with each other and network."

Leaksoursdey Ky leaves next week to study Web design in Sydney at Tafe College, a vocational training institution. She said she was concerned about the high cost of living in Sydney and her ability to communicate clearly with Australians.

"I feel nervous to go because I have never left my family before and I have no relatives or connections in Australia," she said.

"However, Australia offers quality education that is accepted all over the world, and there are more job opportunities in my field than in Cambodia. I plan to work in Australia after I study, and then return to Cambodia where I should have a chance to work in a good company."

Cockroft said many prospective students were concerned about the validity of their Cambodian degrees. However, many Cambodian higher education institutions were recognised by the Australian government, such as The Royal University of Phnom Penh, Pannasastra University and Norton University. 


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