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International student association blasts Four Corners coverage

Four Corners is breaching the ABC’s editorial guidelines relating to impartial and accurate reporting, according to the CEO of the International Education Association of Australia.

In an interview with Campus Review today, Phil Honeywood said Four Corners’ Cash Cow program, which focused on foreign fee-paying students, was the third negative story on the topic in as many years.

“On each occasion, they’ve attacked the international education sector. It’s been very one-sided,” Mr Honeywood said.

“On this occasion Margaret Gardner was fortunate enough to be the spokesperson for the sector, but any attempt to reach out to others was dismissed as they had their story.”

Mr Honeywood said English language requirements were legitimately waived by some universities because international students often received instruction in English when completing secondary school or university studies in their home countries. He was upset by an interview involving two female Chinese students, saying it appeared to be done “to trick the two students up on their conversational English”.

“Just because someone can’t articulate themselves that well, doesn’t mean that they aren’t fluent, or close to fluent, in English as their second language,” Mr Honeywood said.

Although Mr Honeywood took issue with much of the program, he said immersing international students in local culture and customs was a legitimate issue, but it is a complicated one and universities were doing their best in addressing it. He also said domestic students should never be disadvantaged for speaking in English as was the case with Daniel Manganaro, the former Master of IT student at Murdoch University, who dropped out of a subject after his tutorial group conversed exclusively in their native language.

“I would totally agree that in a tutorial group situation, English must be the language medium that is used by students,” Mr Honeywood said.

“They are here to utilise English language as the lingua franca.”

Mr Honeywood was annoyed the program didn’t highlight the “soft power” of the international student sector, with many graduates returning to their countries and embarking on successful careers in a wide range of fields. He also disagreed with the suggestion that many foreign fee-paying students were using university study for a “migration outcome”, citing evidence that the overwhelming majority return to their own countries.

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