The recent murder of Indian student Nitin Garg in Australia [ Images ] has led to calls to governments worldwide to set up a cross-border agency to improve security for international students.
Thousands of Indian students travel to Britain, US and Australia, among other countries, to study. They are part of a large number of international students from various countries who go abroad and enroll on courses.
At the recent World Universities Forum in Davos, Switzerland [ Images ], delegates demanded that governments unite to tackle the problem of international student security as a matter of "global public good".
Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne [ Images ], said that worries about the safety of cross-border students went beyond higher education and the global knowledge economy, and touch "the future world society and civil culture".
In a speech entitled 'International student security: globalisation, state, university', Marginson referred to Garg's murder and accused the Australian government of being "in denial" by arguing that racism is not a factor in the attacks and failing to give students more protection.
He said, "There is not enough official and civil concern about international student security in Australia.
"Australia has taken little action to tackle the problem of international student safety, while denying racism is a factor," Marginson added.
"Market research shows that national reputation is the chief factor in international student choice, bigger than educational quality.
So the Australian Government spins the national reputation, and waits for Nitin Garg to be forgotten. This is not working. The problem of student security will not go away and will continue to affect choices in the education market."
He said in his speech, "Overall, I suspect the position of non-white international students is better in Melbourne than it is in most parts of the USA and the UK, where racism is broader and deeper, though the UK government is smarter in its handling of student safety and crime."
Professor Marginson told the forum that international students were at risk "because they are strangers, because legal protections and policy obligations are sparse, and because there is no political mechanism for translating concerns about their welfare into action".
He called for a cross-border agency to support international students on physical safety, financial, work, housing and welfare issues, offering, if needed, "a point of appeal and of resolution against states".
This would set a precedent for the treatment of other "mobile populations" he added. "We want all our lives to have meaning," Professor Marginson said."If Nitin Garg's death helps to focus world attention on the problems of mobile persons, the gaps in their human security and the need for a workable global regime of human security, his life has achieved a greater meaning. Give him that honour. That way, he still lives."