Keep uni student mix diverse: minister

AUSTRALIAN universities have been warned against relying too heavily on any particular group of students to keep their coffers full.

Education Minister Dan Tehan has expressed the sentiment, after one of his colleagues said he believes some universities are too dependent on international students for their livelihood.

"I don't think that we have to be too concerned about the fact that we do have foreign students coming to Australia, participating in our higher education sector," Mr Tehan told Sky News on Sunday.

"They bring a diversity to student life on our campuses.

"What we do have to ensure though, is to make sure that universities understand that the more diverse the student mix they have, the better secure their financial forecasts will be, so the more diversity they can get, into their student mix, the better."

Several coalition MPs expressed concerns this weekend about the potential for foreign interference, including from the Chinese Communist Party, at Australian universities.

They included Liberal MP Dave Sharma, who told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Saturday he is worried that "some universities have become a little too dependent on foreign university students as a source of revenue".

The government is working with universities on a best practice guidelines on dealing with the issue of foreign interference, expecting it will be completed later this month.

Mr Tehan said the sector understands how important the issue is, but stressed that along with making a contribution to campus life, international students add $35 billion to Australia's economy.

"With everything, we've just got to make sure that we get the balance right," he said.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong is worried that backbenchers have been leading discussions on the topic.

"Rather than having backbenchers raise these issues, let's have a sensible, mature discussion about the relationship with China, and this is an aspect of it," she told ABC's Insiders.


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