It is often said that it takes 20 years for an educational institute to establish itself as a brand. Perhaps one institution will redefine that statement. In seven years, the Brighton Institute of Technology (BIT) has become a name to reckon with. At the August 2010 graduation ceremony at the State Library Of Victoria, hundreds of students passed out and, today, the institute easily has 700-800 students enrolled. All this, when the education market is tough.
Located in the heart of Melbourne, BIT has been one of the largest institutes offering diplomas in hospitality. The institute has now redesigned its curriculum to suit more practical requirements that will yield better employment opportunities for students in the global market. So BIT is offering courses in Management and Automotive Mechanical Technology (Light Vehicle), which will provide students with practical knowledge of workshop practices and procedures, specific to the automotive industry. It will also introduce English language programs soon.
The change in focus comes with the change in economies, believes Jai Anand, director marketing, BIT. “India and China are going to be the biggest hub in the automobile sector. Australia is a working class country and we believe that the next crop of demand will be in the field of automobiles technology. Our believe is that the students will study here and go back and open a workshop and run their businesses. From 2005-09, we focussed on hospitality, from 2011 to 15 we are focussing on automobile technology. And that is the name of the game.”
Although few other institutes are offering the same course now and following the current slump in the education sector, BIT is pretty confident it has its numbers. At more than 700 students, it is sitting pretty. What is more, many students who have completed their courses from other institutes are coming to BIT, claims Ratna Reddy Singareddy, one of the directors who also handles admissions.
“We are simply better than other institutes,” claims Tony Leech, director programs at BIT, also a former teacher in the TAFE system for more than 23 years. “Our early intervention strategy, support services, counselling are very important. We look into the fact that the student achieves as much as he can, come to all the classes and get the qualification he has applied for. We encourage them to be critical. We give an extra class every week for students who have difficulty understanding without any charges.”
“The focus of outcome is important, what do they do at the end of the course,” adds Anand. “We give them as much information as possibly can but the overall thing is to give them a good training. Many of our students who have done hospitality are working in fairly senior positions in many of the hotels in the city. At one stage, we had about 60 of our students working at the Crown. Many in top hotels and at supervisory positions – that is a legacy of our training. They got through the programme, it is a tough programme.”
We have great teaching faculty and we do not compromise on the fees because of what we offer, says Ratna. “Nowadays many of these institutes are lowering their fees just to retain the students and we do not know how they are doing it because the cost is still there.”
“Students tell their friends and families and word of mouth is probably our most important marketing tool,” says Anand, who is also one of the founding members of the institute. In fact his recent trip to India, he says was met with huge responds and hopefully, the government will relax its policies soon.
“We are expecting some reforms in immigration,” says Leech. “The Michael Knight review (for student visa problem) commissioned by the current government is just about complete now and is due to be handed over to the immigration minister Chris Bowen. He believes there is scope for some reform. We expect some changes to happen in the next 2-3 months which we hope will be favourable.” The Michael Knight review is a collection of submissions from all the stakeholders from institutes, peak university bodies, universities, TAFE institutes, who were all involved in the international student market.
To assume that every student is coming for permanent residency (PR) is not correct, says Anand, although the system was in place to be like that. “In our 2009 graduation ceremony, nearly 700 students graduated and most of them got their PR but nearly 20-30 per cent students whom we contacted were no longer here. They either went back to India or the UK or the US. We told the immigration department that their view was wrong and that not everyone was looking for PR,” says Anand. “And our interest is in training and imparting qualifications.”
Right now, BIT is upbeat about its pro-automotive thrust. Both the Indian and Chinese economies are growing very quickly and there is a huge demand for foreign-educated people, says Leech. And even if it is a modest bunch of students to begin with, they know that their high quality of teaching will stand them in good stead. “Our slogan,” says Anand, “Is come here as a student, become a businessman.” Hopefully, learning business essentials here and applying it will be the common thread for students coming to BIT, which is all geared up for the competition.