Universities in Australia are implementing new policies and initiatives to help international students stay safe on campus, responding to concerns that language barriers and cultural differences could lead to misunderstandings.
Experts have warned that international students could be vulnerable to exploitation or harassment due to language difficulties making it hard for them to stand up for themselves or to understand what is deemed unacceptable behaviour in their host country.
Following complaints of sexual harassment on campus, 26 universities and 19 residential colleges now provide students with an hour-long video course explaining “sexual consent”, according to SBS News.
“If they can get all this information about consent early, they will realise how to protect themselves and what their rights are,” international student Forough Ataollahi, who was initially confused about her rights when it came to sexual harassment when she arrived in Australia, told SBS News.
As well as this, institutions including Western Sydney University, Swinburne University, University of the Sunshine Coast and Flinders University also offer specialised counselling services to support students who have been affected by sexual harassment or assault, SBS News wrote in a separate report.
“It does take a lot of time and resources to do it properly, and I understand universities are often operating in a tightly resourced environment,” UNSW criminology lecturer Bianca Fileborn told the news portal.
“Universities must know who their students are, what their needs are, and make sure its tailored and appropriate for all groups. We need face-to-face training, delivered by experts.”
Despite this, universities are taking strides to make campuses safer through late night shuttle buses and onsite security services.
Shuttle buses, such as the late-night service ran by The Australian National University are particularly useful during this time of the year, as students are often travelling to and from the library at all hours of the night to prepare for exams.
International education is Australia’s third biggest export, bringing in US$22 million per year, according to The Australian.
Continuing to attract international students should be a main priority for the country as a whole, and maintaining the safety of students on campus can aid this, reads Stephen Parker’s Op-Ed in The Australian.
“We need to stand together with conviction, commitment and humility, sharing what works and what we have learned,” wrote Parker.