Torrens University is proud to have a longstanding tradition of international students studying online and offshore.
Offshore online students have been part of Torrens University and its schools and colleges for years and are part of the fabric and DNA of the University.
This is why the recent announcement from the Australian government about student visas is warmly welcomed by Torrens University Australia.
Important changes following months of uncertainty
The changes to student visa arrangements will allow international students with a visa, who are studying online offshore due to border restrictions, to count that study towards a post-study work visa, alongside the study they will do in Australia once travel restrictions are lifted.
According to Mark Falvo, Vice President, International at Torrens University, this is because the vast majority of international students studying or who want to study in Australia seek post-study work rights with the option of extending their stay in Australia.
In March 2020, however, uncertainty set in for international students who were planning to come to Australia.
“When COVID-19 struck, many students left stranded in their home countries did not know whether continuing their studies online with us would count towards their post-study work rights,” Falvo explains.
“Others impacted were those who had study visas but had not yet commenced studying at Torrens University.”
“We know that hundreds of students who were interested in studying with us – including those who had not obtained visas yet – deferred their studies.”
Torrens University welcomes government announcement
So, not surprisingly, Mark Falvo describes the announcement by the government as “big news”.
Torrens University Australia President Linda Brown warmly welcomes the announcement.
“At Torrens University, we were established as a global university. I always say that all of our students, including those domestically enrolled, should be international – in their perspectives, in building global citizenship through the practice of inclusion and multiculturalism, in being global change-makers. This announcement from the Federal government provides clarity for our international students and their families,” says Brown.
“Torrens University has a simple message – we are ready to welcome and support more students, onshore and offshore, and that these new measures are consistent with our values and the capability that we have built in successfully delivering offshore online already across 60+ countries.”
– Linda Brown
Quality online education at Torrens University
Like all Australian universities, Torrens University transitioned swiftly to online learning and teaching when COVID-19 restrictions took effect across the country.
While this meant international students could not enter Australia, this did not stop some from commencing their studies online. What is more, they found the experience encouraging and they began progressing quickly.
Diane Olivar, a Torrens University student in the Philippines says that commencing offshore and online is proving beneficial on many fronts.
“I had originally planned to study in Australia, but I didn’t want to waste any time by deferring my face-to-face studies, so I decided to start my course offshore online,” Diane says.
“My English skills have improved – especially my speaking – and I have learnt a lot from my teachers that I will be able to apply when I undertake my master’s degree. This will really help me when I eventually come to Australia to study my degree.”
– Diane Olivar
Hikaru Kanayama opted to start studying online in Japan upon the recommendation of her education agent.
“I’m finding that I can manage my time really well, balancing study with full-time work,” Hikaru says.
“Eventually, my plan is to come and study in Australia.”
Australia stands apart internationally with visa announcement
The government’s much-awaited announcement means the number of students studying at Torrens University online and offshore like Diane and Hikaru could well increase.
Associate Professor Dipu Sebastian who is Associate Dean of Business and Hospitality at Torrens University, says this is likely to happen because Australia now stands out in the international student market.
“Firstly, this is an indication that international students are welcome. There was a fear earlier among international students that they were not welcome,” Associate Professor Sebastian reminds us.
“Secondly, not a lot of countries have signaled this. Some countries have taken a punitive approach to international students studying online by asking them to leave the country.”
Mark Falvo says there has been a lot of pent up demand from prospective students who want to study at Torrens University and Think Education in Australia, and at the Media Design School in New Zealand.
Across his years of experience in international education, Falvo is adamant that some students would prefer to come to Australia.
“Being an international student is about more than just study. It’s about immersing yourself in a new place, a new community, a new culture. Global citizenship remains a core value of Torrens University, and this is why we believe many international students would prefer to come to Australia.”
– Mark Falvo
Torrens University ready for online offshore students
Mark Falvo, General Manager – Business and
International, Torrens University Australia
But Falvo is confident there will be a large number of offshore students who will happily recommence their studies or enrol for the first time online because what is important for them is that they will still receive an Australian qualification – with post-study work rights.
Falvo says that when they do, Torrens University will be more than just ready.
“Firstly, it was always part of our plan to scale – offshore and online. COVID-19 only accelerated this,” he says emphatically.
“We were always set up to be online and face-to-face. In March 2020 we didn’t need to rejig and re-adapt everything. We always had both modes of delivery.”
“One important reason is that we have never distinguished between online and face-to-face learning. Both modes of delivery provide a choice for the student to determine how they best learn. We have always maintained equally quality of academic calibre, learning experience, and student experience, both online and face-to-face.”
Post-graduate students David Cedano, who is from Colombia, and Mehul Vyas from India attest that this has indeed been their experiences.
“What I’ve enjoyed the most is being able to access classes and course materials at any time, and at my own pace,” David says.
“In terms of the quality of the learning, based on my experience I have to say that online and face-to-face are the same.”
Mehul Vyas says while delivery is important – especially via digital platforms, studying online is the same as studying in a physical classroom.
“You have the same professors, lecture slides, study material and classmates; it’s just delivered in a different format,” Mehul says.
Others like MBA student Liane Peixoto who came to Australia from Brazil with the sole intention of studying face-to-face, transitioning to online education was pleasantly surprising.
Liane Peixoto, International student – Master
of Business Administration
“It was not my plan to study online originally, but I’ve been studying online since March due to COVID-19. Since then I have found that Torrens University offers a lot of online support and …a great online structure,” Liane says.
“After I graduate, I hope to stay in Australia and gain some professional experience.”
This focus on quality online education is one reason Falvo believes Torrens University has been successful in Papua New Guinea, and in China – where Torrens University already had large cohorts of offshore online students for several years.
“That history of delivering offshore online was another reason why we were able to transition so seamlessly.”
“We have had hundreds of students studying online in China and in Papua New Guinea for many years – with few intending to come to Australia because of family, work and other reasons.”
“Not just that, in China, for example, we offer online post-graduate education, with foreign context in Mandarin. So, the focus is squarely on learning with a global perspective.”
Despite the good news about post-study work rights and the likelihood of more students enrolling or recommencing their studies with Torrens University offshore, there remains uncertainty around some details such as the status of part-time offshore study online. Australian government data shows that a very high proportion of offshore online students tend to study part-time. Yet, international students studying onshore in Australia are only allowed to study full time.
Two other pressing questions remain. How much of your course can be studied offshore online? For instance, we know in Canada that a student can only study 50% of their course online overseas. The second question is about where students locate themselves in Australia – because, in some states, post-study work rights are different. In South Australia for example, a student can get up to one extra year of post-study work rights. The question is will there be requirements for the length of time an offshore online student must be located in an Australian city – such as Adelaide?
Dipu Sebastian says questions such as these do need to be addressed because India and China have what he describes as ‘mature’ education markets where details are examined closely.
“Some of the details have not been worked out. We need to take this to the government and seek clarity because, at the end of the day, these are the details that inform the decisions of students and prospective students who are offshore.”
Mark Falvo is confident that these issues will be ironed out. He adds that attention will need to then turn to the support offshore online students receive – including the challenges of working across time zones and ensuring cultural experience also translates online.
“Whilst there is some detail to still be articulated from government, we are confident in the path forward for our students,” says Torrens University President Linda Brown.
But then, isn’t that what being global is about?