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Federal campaign to support universities during virus crisis


Government programme promotes digital study and provides social media support for staff and students

The federal government has announced a support programme to help Australia’s universities overcome the challenges presented by travel bans and limits on public gatherings imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Austrade, the Australian trade and investment commission, will work with state and territory tertiary institutions to develop digital study platforms and webinars to help international students adjust to online classes.

It has launched a campaign, #InThisTogether, to provide online information and social media support for students and university staff affected by the crisis.

The agency’s website says the campaign is designed to “mitigate any negativity towards specific cohorts of students while emphasising Australia’s standing as a welcoming study destination”.

“We also know from past experience, messages of support from peers and user-generated content has more appeal and cut-through with our international student cohort than messages from ‘authoritative’ channels.”

Austrade says the aim is to develop “a flexible, timeless campaign which can be adopted by all members of the international education sector”.

“While its immediate purpose is in response to the novel coronavirus, it is a concept which can band partners, providers and students together at any time. The campaign also supports multiple voices and reinforces the importance of collaboration,” the campaign website says.

“It is a voice for the Australian community to show the Chinese student community we care for them. It provides a platform for offshore Chinese students to communicate back to the local community [and] it aligns and unites ongoing government, industry and community efforts in response to the issue.”

Other initiatives include promoting Australia’s capability in distance and online education, the growth and acceptance of microcredentials, and the importance of transnational university partnerships.

Austrade says it has diverted resources to help universities deal with significant challenges caused by Covid-19 and the Australian bushfires.

“A key feature of our approach is working closely with all state and territory study destinations, while taking an aggregator role across government to ensure that students, agents and parents are informed.”