International education is a $12.5 billion industry, and foreign students' fees account for an average 15 per cent of universities' overall funding, but a higher education experts warns of "informal but real segregation".
Professor Simon Marginson, from the Centre for Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, said local students tended to work off campus and were not active in student life, and international students spent most of their time on campus, generally in the library.
While the atmosphere on campuses generally supported foreign students, Professor Marginson said: "So you've got this odd situation with the local students half-disengaged in a way I've never really seen before. The international student industry runs off the back of a reasonably strong local system which presumes a healthy relationship with the local students … all of that has become the marketing pitch. That's the flashpoint that worries me more than any other - that it could spring back into resentment."
Almost two-thirds of international students are from Asia, and many have no contact with local students. Eric Pang, president of the National Liaision Committee for International Students in Australia, said foreign students were not given a strong welfare system and had to rely on peers for support, yet were accused of failing to integrate. Many had told the committee: "There's not much international students can learn from Australia in terms of culture, or in terms of English. After all, the standard of English of Australian students is not high anyway."
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