Global MBA to boost Australia’s education exports

  • Dr Stephanie Fahey, Chief Executive Officer of Austrade 
  • Keynote address at the Macquarie University Global MBA Launch on Wednesday 15 May 2019
  • Not checked against delivery


Thank you Lan.  It’s a great pleasure to be here tonight to celebrate the launch of Macquarie University’s online Global MBA.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, and by paying my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.

I also wish to acknowledge:

  • Professor Stephen Brammer Executive Dean of Macquarie Business School
  • Mr Warren Bingham, Chair of the Global MBA and all members of the Industry Advisory Board
  • Associate Professor Lan Snell and all Macquarie Business School academic staff
  • And, of course, everyone in the first intake.

While I was preparing for this speech I thought of the words of Malala Yousafzai,1 the Pakistani 12-year-old who was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to demand access to education.

“They cannot stop me,” she said. “I will get my education, if it is in the home, school, or any place.”

Malala also said: “Education is neither eastern nor western. Education is education and it’s the right of every human being.”2

That 12 year-old, as I’m sure you know, became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Now 21, she’s in her second year at Oxford University studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics.3

I have no doubt Malala has inspired millions of young people across the world about the importance of education.

I wonder, how many of those millions – crossing gender, race, religion and location – will progress through primary, secondary and tertiary education and onto an MBA?

How many will have careers where education becomes a necessary succession of lifelong learning programs?

Tonight we are witness to the launch of a digital building block that will provide future education for today’s young people from Australia and many other countries.

Macquarie Business School’s online Global MBA offers an opportunity that few could have imagined three or more decades ago – before the World Wide Web.

Who would have thought – back when Australia had thriving manufacturers and exporters of textiles, clothing and footwear – that we’d one day be exporting the benefits of an MBA to:

  • accelerate career progress
  • become globally transportable
  • and increase earning potential and networking opportunities.

Your Global MBA recognises the workplace of the future is complex and full of potential. The MBA is flexible and relevant to the disruptive times in which we live.

Your MBA program has a ‘Be Global’ course.  It may sound surprising that some Australian MBAs do not have such content on international business.

Rapid technological development is reshaping the way we live and work. The way we learn must also change – both reskilling to change jobs and upskilling to master new tasks as our jobs change.

Indeed, Future Skills, a report prepared by AlphaBeta for Google Australia, says Australia needs a surge of investment in skills to navigate the major shifts in the future of work.

In the face of advances in technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence, it predicts that acquiring the skills we need will require Australian workers to spend more time learning than any previous generation. 

The way business schools deliver education is fundamentally changing.

We used to watch TV programs at a certain time and place. Now we time shift prime time to my time.  Your online Global MBA is the same in its offer to “study when and where it suits you.”

I’m not surprised that demand for online learning is growing. It not only offers accessibility irrespective of location but also opportunity for those who don’t have time to undertake a campus-based MBA.

At Austrade we work at the coalface with business. We see firsthand the impact of the rapidly changing global environment on our clients. We know that a strong understanding of global operations is crucial for success in competitive markets.

Criticism4 that has been levelled at e-learning is ill-founded and out of date. You’ve probably heard claims that it’s impersonal; that it’s one-size-fits-all, that it’s not collaborative.5

In fact, as online solutions have matured, and interaction between students and teachers increases, what we are seeing is the learning process replicating contemporary business practices – where global teams are organised from a distance using technology.

David Lefevre, Director of the Edtech Lab at London’s Imperial College Business School, argued last year that, at multinationals, working across geographies is very normal. He said: “For those people, online study is perfectly natural.”6 

Anne Trumbore, Online Director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, said more people are also more willing to apply to online MBA programs because they have become more credible.

The way we learn, the way we teach, and the skills we need, must change as we progress through what has been called the fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0.

A challenge for Australia is that we do not always have clear visibility or awareness of technological developments elsewhere in the world – such as cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence, self-driving cars and innovation in financial technology.

I believe that an advantage of being part of a global student cohort is knowledge sharing – the Global MBA provides professional training for the next generation of international business leaders.

Industry 4.0 is creating a new global economy, one increasingly influenced by the rise of data exchange between connected computers and machine learning in manufacturing.

We know the future of work is global. Workers of the future will need to understand international business practices, possess strong cultural literacy as well as foreign language skills, and the ability to build global and local networks.

Workers will move across a range of industries during their working lives.

  • That Future Skills report I mentioned earlier says that, on average, every Australian will change occupations 2.4 times over the next two decades.
  • This is true even for people like me – I’ve changed careers three times over the past decade, moving from academia, into the corporate world, and now working for government.
  • Your Global MBA directors Lan Snell and Yvonne Breyer have said the linear journey through one profession is no longer the norm.7

We also know that employers are looking for agile, intelligent employees with 21st Century skills – problem solving, creativity, collaboration and teamwork. 

They must have the capability and capacity to work in multi-disciplinary teams with the client, customer or citizen at the centre, designing “from the outside in.”

From my experience at Austrade we are seeing that companies increasingly want to be part of providing a pathway for students into jobs that reflect societal needs.

If Australian universities are to remain competitive, their offering must be as up-to-date and responsive as possible and adopt client-centric approaches.

This means practical and applied curricula that provide relevant, intensive immersion courses that meet client needs, current and future opportunities, and rapid changes in the global economy.

The trend towards short flexible courses to address specific workforce needs, or micro-credentialing, is an example of the disruption in education.

Micro-credentials provide a set of skills or knowledge within a given field that is more strictly defined and outcome-oriented than a traditional degree or diploma.  As such, they support the concept of lifelong learning.

Is it any wonder that a recent National Summit on Micro-Credentials and Accreditation in Melbourne will be followed soon in the same city by an International Summit on Lifelong learning for sustainability and impact?

Micro-credentialing is as much an opportunity for universities as a threat, and university innovation in this space is commendable.

Like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other open-access resources for students, micro-credentials are enabled by technology, providing new solutions that potentially disrupt established models of university education.

Online learning platforms like Coursera, which underpin your Global MBA, and our own Smart Sparrow, help educators better support and motivate students. They show how the benefits of a private lesson can be shared limitlessly across students, time and locations.

The emergence of MOOCs in 2006 were anticipated to disrupt the education market.  Indications were that US platforms such as EdX and Coursera, and later FutureLearn in the UK, would dominate.  But the disruptors have been disrupted with recent investment by Australian company SEEK in both Coursera and FutureLearn.  

By co-creating and co-delivering with industry partners, in the way your Global MBA program does, universities can look for synergy in potential educational ecosystems, as well as sharpen their contribution to research and development.

So how will your online Global MBA benefit Australia?

Well, Australia’s international education sector has spent more than five decades establishing itself as a global powerhouse that now supports more than 240,000 jobs nationally.

Austrade’s 2018 Market Information Package on international education trends shows that total enrolments of international students grew by 10 per cent to more than 876,000 students.8  

The aspiration of AIE2025, a long-term market strategy for international education, is for Australia to deliver education and skills to meet the needs of one billion learners by 2025. This requires additional capacity that can only be achieved through digital platforms.

Asia is fast becoming the most significant region for Australia’s economic prosperity, and is critically important for Australia’s international education.

  • Almost 80 per cent9 of international enrolments were students from Asia.
  • Education-related travel is Australia’s largest export to ASEAN as a group.10

The fact that future growth in the global economy will be led by Asia means that it is important for Global MBA students to be Asia-capable leaders.  It makes sense for Australian educators to look towards borderless and offshore delivery.

I don’t need to tell you that business schools represent a highly-competitive global sector.

It is to the great credit of the Macquarie Business School that you are ranked among the Top 100 business schools in the world in both the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2019 and The Economist’s 2018 MBA Ranking

Macquarie Business School is one of only three Australian business schools in each top 100 ranking.  Only Macquarie and Melbourne Business School are on both lists.

Universities must create new value for students. This means practical and applied curricula that provide relevant, intensive immersion courses.

When you ask students why they study MBAs, apart from learning, the main reason we hear is networks, networks, networks.  Studying a global MBA will connect you with a network of future international leaders.

PwC’s 2017 report Match Fit Shaping Asia capable leaders11 said leadership that intimately understands Asia’s diverse customers is essential to success.

Yet, Asia capability on the ASX 200 is low, only 19 per cent of board members and 14 per cent of senior executives. Of the 55 ASX 200 companies that report revenue from Asia, only 24 per cent have Asia capable leadership.

Once again, this emphasises the value of obtaining an MBA with a global focus.

Before I conclude I wish to mention the Free Trade Agreements which also deliver future opportunities for Australian international education.

In March, the Australia Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was signed.

For the first time in any trade agreement, Indonesia has offered commitments on certain vocational education and training, guaranteeing that Australian providers can establish majority Australian-owned joint ventures in Indonesia.

Australian VET providers will benefit from commitments that guarantee they can offer all Australian Qualifications Framework qualifications and some Indonesian Qualifications Framework qualifications in a number of subjects.

Through this FTA, Indonesia has committed to automatically lock in any future liberalisation of the conditions for Australian universities wishing to establish in Indonesia.

We also have the six-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

This provides market access outcomes for Australian exporters of education services, especially to Brunei, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, where our universities and VET providers will be able to pursue new opportunities to establish or expand a campus or institution.

Our deep education relationship with India has enormous potential for future growth beyond two-way international student flows into:

  • forging partnerships for skilling India's workforce,
  • collaboration on science and innovation,
  • and university-industry partnerships to commercialise joint research.

Austrade is the Australian Government’s trade, investment and education promotion agency. We are the lead agency for the international marketing and promotion of Australian education, training and research.

Austrade also offers Australian education and training providers tailored services to support their international engagement strategies, including accurate market intelligence gained from in country, on the ground in-depth knowledge.

Austrade has been working with Macquarie University closely on this Global MBA initiative in India and ASEAN and I would encourage you to continue working with us through our global network of more than 80 offices in about 50 overseas markets to expand your program. And to utilise our Landing Pads program located in five global innovation hubs of Tel Aviv, Berlin, San Francisco, Shanghai and Singapore.

Finally, I wish to congratulate Macquarie University, Coursera and all involved in the launch of the online Global MBA tonight and leave you with some prescient advice from India’s great leader Mahatma Gandhi12:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”


4  A January 2019 report by Obama-Clinton advisers says online education has not lived up to its potential and has failed to be more affordable than traditional courses

7 The Australian 3 Oct 2018. Article by Lan Snell and Yvonne Breyer on Flexible and continuous learning

8 Total enrolments figure 876,399, up 80,269: From pg1 of MIP Education Insight 2018 in Review

9 78.18 per cent

10 Australia’s $93 billion two-way trade with the 10 ASEAN countries now exceeds our trade with US & Japan