RMIT to stop offering VCE in China

RMIT to stop offering VCE in China

August 29, 2021

RMIT University will stop offering the VCE in China this year as enrolments slide, although experts say underlying demand for Australian education has withstood political tensions and border closures.

RMIT said it would stop partnering with a provider in China to deliver a VCE program at the end of the year, six years after its launch. It’s understood its VCE program enrolments in Beijing fell to 20 this year.

Higher education expert Andrew Norton says underlying demand for Australian education is reasonably strong in China.Credit:Attila Csaszar

VCE is the most common Australian school-leavers’ certificate studied overseas, with 767 students completing the certificate offshore in 2019.

RMIT, Donvale Christian College, Firbank Grammar School, Haileybury College, Peninsula Grammar and Thomas Carr College all partner with schools in China to provide the VCE.

The vast majority of offshore VCE students typically go on to study at an Australian tertiary institution, typically at a Group of Eight university, official figures show. Education is Victoria’s biggest service-based export.

More than 4000 students have completed the VCE in China since 2002, making it the state’s biggest offshore VCE market.

ANU higher education expert Andrew Norton said underlying demand for Australian education was reasonably strong in China, despite the closed international border and reports it was discouraging foreign education.

“Chinese [higher education] commencements are down on the peak year of 2019 by 17 per cent, but commencements in 2021 are higher than the same time in 2020,” Professor Norton said.

“I would say that there has been a significant drop but much less than expected given border closures and political tensions.“

The latest official figures show in June there were 470 international student arrivals to Australia, predominantly for higher education and post-graduate research. This was down 99 per cent on pre-COVID levels.

Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, said: “All indications are there is still strong appetite among Chinese students for Victorian curriculum.

“Clearly many still have the hope that they’ll be able to transition into face-to-face study at an Australian university next year on completion of their VCE.”

Phil Honeywood, chief executive of International Education Association Australia, says Chinese students will want to study here.Credit:Wayne Taylor

The move comes as China prepares to ban private education companies from teaching foreign curriculums, importing foreign textbooks and employing foreign teachers.

China in July effectively shut down private education by banning companies that teach school curriculum from raising money or listing on the sharemarket in a bid to “ease the burden of excessive homework” on students.

Asked whether the changes applied to VCE and the International Baccalaureate, the Chinese embassy said: “The policy does not involve international cooperation programs that have been approved”.

Haileybury, which is the biggest VCE provider in China, and Peninsula Grammar said the crackdown did not affect their programs.

The remaining schools and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority declined to comment.

But the International Baccalaureate Organisation said it would adapt to the changes, which take effect this week. “We are confident that the community of IB world schools … in China will effectively adopt the new law’s requirements into the operations and practices,” it said.

The International Baccalaureate is taught in 242 schools in China.

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