How can Sydney educate 100M students by 2050? A look at future trends and opportunities for government and the education industry.

International education over the past 10 years has been an enormous success story for Australia, and nowhere more than Sydney. According to Study NSW, more than 260,000 onshore students, $13bn in exports, 95,000 jobs and double digit annual growth over the past 5 years.

So what will international education look like in 2050? How can Sydney benefit from and plan for these changes? At the City of Sydney and Study NSW International Education forum last week, the question was asked of myself and my fellow panellists including economists, scientists, entrepreneurs, students and human rights lawyers.

Panel L-R; Beau Leese Practera, Sean Stimson Redfern Legal Centre, Natasha Munasinghe, The Frank Team, Hugh Durrant Whyte NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer, Susana Ng City of Sydney, Ian Aird International Education Initiatives

What does the future of international education hold?

2050 is a long time, but not all that long – as far as today from 1990. Some things will be very different, but we’re not talking Starship Enterprise here. Among many, three key megatrends in evidence today will have a profound influence in the opportunities for international education. These are 1) the future of work, 2) global demographic & development shifts and 3) new technologies for work & learning.

The future of work is changing more rapidly than ever. Whether we accept that 47% of today’s jobs will disappear due to automation and other technologies, the world of work is changing. The average number of jobs in a given career is going up, and the lifespan of specific knowledge is going down. This means that 2 billion knowledge workers will need to upskill and reskill faster than ever before. Without taking anything away from the importance of foundational knowledge, in response education will become more personalised, modular, lifelong and experiential in nature. International education will be highly exposed to this trend, driven by student demand for an employability return on their education investment. The postgraduate, post work experience international education market will become more important. The human skills that complement increasing automation and are best taught experientially like creativity, problem solving and service orientation are more important.

Changing global demographic growth and economic development trends will reshape international education to 2050. Global student mobility will more than double grow from 5m to 10m annually. With the development of domestic higher education systems, China, developed East Asia and India student export growth will slow but with large absolute populations of 15-24 year olds and growing middle classes still account for the bulk of growth to 2027. Developing economies in South Asia & West Asia will provide important growth markets around this period, and by 2050 Africa is projected to be the high growth international education market, with 35% of young people aged 15-24 globally. One of the big challenges and opportunities for Australia will be that the vast bulk of students will continue to study and work at home, with increasingly sophisticated domestic economies and higher education systems providing competition for onshore students.

New technologies used for work & learning. Not all learning will be virtual – students will still value personal connections with professors and peers, but new technologies will be integrated into the educational mix, and a higher proportion of learning will be purely online. For those readers whose memories stretch far enough, think of the difference of the daily use of technology between 1990 and now in the workplace and higher ed. Expect pervasive applications of technologies including AI + machine learning, VR / AR, blockchain based credentialing, and later on human-machine interface. With all students firmly digital and mobile native, platform distribution means that awesome and highly personalised programs and solutions for specific niches can be distributed globally, generating economies of specialisation and scale. Just like physical goods supply chains – services and software supply chains will become truly global, where a great lecture, an industry project, a predictive algorithm can be deployed as easily in Dalian or Tanzania as Haymarket.

What can Sydney do to seize opportunity in this future?

Much of the discussion was framed around the onshore student experience, with the implication that growth will require a lot of urban planning and debates about who is congesting the buses. While this is undoubtedly the case, there is an aspect which is underplayed – the opportunity and the benefit of education technology and offshore delivery.

Sydney isn’t just part of Australia. Unique among Australian cities it occupies a privileged position as a global destination city, as part of a network of 20-30 truly global cities which concentrate the worlds human capital, creativity, economic growth and job creation to a degree unprecedented in human history. It enjoys a comparative advantage that other Australian jurisdictions do not.

Beyond fostering continued strong growth in onshore enrolments, Sydney education providers have a phenomenal opportunity to leverage the cities brand, institutions and strengths to facilitate exponential growth in delivering educational products, programs, credentials and expertise offshore and transnationally.

As learning and work become ever more digitally enabled, education providers in all industry sectors can adopt and adapt education technology to co-create new and potentially disruptive models building on world class brands, expertise and IP. One of the great potential enablers of this is a thriving local edtech sector. Of >350 edtechs in Australia, approximately 150 are based here in Sydney, according to EduGrowth and Austrade. The 2018 Startup Muster report demonstrated that more than 1/3 of startup founders are born overseas, including many international students. Edtech is the second largest industry vertical for tech startups. Examples of scaleup stage edtech companies that have raised significant capital and gained international traction in specific niches include Open Learning in Massive Online Open Course platform, Go One in corporate training, Smart Sparrow in adaptive learning, Learnosity in assessments and Practera in experiential learning.

As an example, Practera has worked with Study NSW and 10 NSW Universities to develop the NSW Global Scope program, which connects thousands of international students in digitally enabled projects with hundreds of Government, business + community organisations to solve real problems. This model is informing our collaboration with Northeastern University in the US to design a projects program with the capacity to serve >100,000 community college students in Masachussets. Boston University is using the platform to manage health development projects in 17 developing countries.

‘Experiential learning’ is rapidly evolving as key response to educational needs and models like these could deliver a broader economic & social dividend for Sydney. For example students, educators and industry from Sydney and global cities can be connected today through high-impact and high-quality online projects and accelerators. Transnational experiential learning brings an unfair share of the worlds human capital into building opportunity with Sydney institutions, industries and students. This initiative alone would promote connection and innovation through facilitating collaboration between Higher Education and business on which Australia ranks poorly on a global basis. It would promote the development of more global connections and collaborations for Sydney. It would promote a more just and sustainable city through offering industry experience and connections to many more students, including from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Government has a key role to play in facilitating initiatives like this, in bringing actors together and providing the brands, seed funding, license to operate and connections required to facilitate large scale cross sector collaboration.

More systematically, across the many niches and opportunities of a world of education that is more modular, experiential and lifelong, a city like Sydney can ask itself the question – not can we handle half a million international students in our city, but can we educate 100 million learners globally?

About the author

Beau Leese is Co-Founder & Co-Chief Executive Officer of Practera

Remarks adapted from City of Sydney / Study NSW International Education Forum 2019

$2M for edtech company Practera to develop world leading student data privacy technology

Education Technology (EdTech) startup Practera and its collaboration partners have been awarded $1.995 million in government funding as part of a $7.45M project to develop a data privacy protection product for online student data.

Practera’s was one of sixteen projects awarded a total of $30 million by the Commonwealth’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) Round 7 grants program. Collaboration partners in the project include CSIRO’s Data61, University of South Australia, global education company Navitas, Education Technology peak body EduGrowth, and cyber security solution provider Cybermerc.

Learning analytics and AI research while preserving student privacy

The project will develop a product for education providers to provably preserve the privacy of student data records. This will enable education companies to maximise the value of their student datasets, for example in learning analytics and training of artificial intelligence algorithms. The product will be applied initially to Practera’s experiential learning platform which supports programs such as project programs, internships and skills credentialing.

EduGrowth CEO David Linke said that “Learners globally are demanding more control over the data from their learning.  So having Australia at the centre of building this incredibly important tool will be a global advantage for our education providers, the EdTech sector and most importantly the learners themselves.”

Ruth Marshall, Practera’s Director R&D and Data Integrity and leader of the project said “Learning Analytics on student data provides the insights that EdTech companies need to deliver increasingly valuable and personalised insights, evolve their products and compete in the global marketplace. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly important for EdTech systems to provably protect personal and confidential data.”

Global education companies need to meet increasingly complex privacy requirements

The CRC-P grant will pay for research to apply and further enhance privacy-preserving technology and techniques developed by CSIRO’s Data61 for other applications. “We are very interested to apply these techniques in the Education industry” said Professor Dali Kaafar, Group Leader of the Information Security and Privacy Group. “The techniques we have developed at Data61 aim to quantify and measure the “privacy risks” of personal identification or re-identification, and then reduce that risk using mathematically provable risk reduction techniques.”

Professor Kaafar elaborated, “Removing obvious identifiers such as names and addresses is not sufficient to protect users from re-identification, with a linking attack for example”. Linking attacks use data from other sources such as social media to determine the identity of individuals from an anonymized data set.  A famous example is New York City taxis who released a “de-identified” set of trip data in 2014 to have it re-identified within the hour using information found on Twitter and online news.

Marshall continued, “Edtech companies with global operations like Practera need to meet increasingly complex privacy requirements around the world. Provable anonymisation of data offers a tremendous business advantage. Our customers like Universities and education providers like Navitas will be increasingly required to prove that their data remains private under regimes like the EU’s GDPR. This is becoming more important as multiple systems are used, some or all operate in the cloud and the provider has multinational operations.” The project will enhance the privacy & security capabilities of Practera in the first instance, but we certainly envisage that we are building product in its own right with application for other EdTechs.”

Media Contact

Ruth Marshall

Mob. +61 0411 222 040


Bold new plan to make Queensland a global skills destination

Queensland is set to attract its “unfair share” of global talent following the launch of Australia’s largest ever student career development drive.

International Education Ministerial Champion Kate Jones today launched the Study Queensland Talent Program which will be available to all students studying in Queensland.

The Study Queensland Talent Program will offer new employer engagement programs to all students to build their 21st-century skills as well as e-portfolio and micro-credentialing app to help them record their experiences and achievements in real time. 

Ms Jones said the program would position Queensland to be able to offer students world leading recognition of the skills they develop alongside their study to better prepare them for their future career.

“We have great education and training providers and some of the world’s leading tourism destinations,” she said.

“We want to make sure everyone who gets an education in Queensland builds authentic connections and has great employment prospects, both here and globally. That’s what this program is all about.

“It’s also part of our plan to attract more international students to study in Queensland.”

The $1.6 million program will be funded through the Queensland Government International Education and Training Strategy.

The Start Here Go Anywhere e-portfolio and micro-credentialing app – which is currently being piloted in Cairns – will be rolled out across the state in coming months.

Ms Jones said the app would encourage students to take up new and existing employability programs and enable students to record their participation in activities to help build their extra-curricular profile, allowing them to be more attractive to global employers.

Importantly, she said the program would be supported by a new Study Queensland Employer Champion Groups, which includes Urbis, Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation and Bank of Queensland.

“International education is Queensland’s fastest growing service export, last year injecting more than $5 billion into the economy,” she said.

“We want to grow this industry to create jobs for Queensland.”

The program will be delivered by Study Queensland, which is charged with implementing the International Education and Training Strategy to Advance Queensland.

The program was launched at the Study Queensland International Education and Training Summit held in Brisbane this week.

Attracting more than 300 people, the summit explored ways to attract skills and talent from across the globe featuring TIQ Commissioners from China, Japan and ASEAN.

This is the media statement originally published in the Queensland Cabinet and Ministerial Directory on June 26, 2019.

Practera Global Skills Passport App to support 12,000 Cairns-based students

Study Cairns has partnered with Study Queensland to launch a “world first” pilot program aimed at helping students get a foothold in the Cairns job market.

The Start Here, Go Anywhere Global Skills Passport is an app platform for 12,000 international and domestic students to build portfolios of globally relevant skills.

This app launch is part of Study Cairns Connects – a program designed to log employability experiences for domestic and international students and to engage a network of Cairns business, community and government organisations.

Study Cairns president Carol Doyle said the program offers students access to volunteering and internship programs which complement employability experiences offered by Cairns-based education providers.

“With Study Queensland’s international education tagline  ‘Start Here, Go Anywhere’, this exciting pilot project showcases the opportunity for international and domestic students to study in a unique regional Queensland location like Cairns”, she said. “Participation in the project empowers students to develop transferrable skills like service orientation, innovation, teamwork and communication.”

This is bold, world leading ‘region scale’ initiative and potentially serves as a pilot for broader adaption by other Queensland international education regions.”

The program is delivered in partnership with Australian edtech startup Practera, and is a personalised employability, e-portfolio & micro-credentialling app, available to 12,000 post-secondary students during their study in Cairns.

The Global Skills Passport and introductory workshops are designed to equip students with World Economic Forum skills based framework and issue open badge standard micro-credential certificates.

For students the resource provides a digital tool to help them to build and demonstrate the skills needed to succeed in the future of work. 


This article was published in the Cairns Post and DailyTelegraph

CRC Association partners with Practera to build Australia’s applied R&D skills

The CRC Association has partnered with edtech startup Practera to support the education and knowledge transfer activities of CRCs with the Practera experiential learning & micro-credentialing platform.

CRC Association CEO Tony Peacock announced the partnership during last week’s Collaborate | Innovate | 2019 conference. He said “The CRC Association is pleased to announce our partnership with Practera to develop a series of experiential learning products to help CRC’s enhance activities like industry skills development, PhD mentoring, innovation challenges and industry education. These programs are critical to build the impact skills of our scientists and to collaborate effectively with industry, but we often reinvent the wheel in these spaces. Practera offers the opportunity to provide digital templates that can be adopted and adapted by CRCs to use with their students and industry partners. Practera is a great Australian startup which brings to life a clear vision for work integrated learning and industry-research collaboration that closely aligns to the mission of the CRC program.”

Ruth Marshall, Practera’s R&D Director and a former Commercialisation Advisor for Data61 has been working with a small group of CRCs on developing prototype products. She ran a workshop at the conference to elicit best practices and demonstrate prototypes.


Mike Ridout, Innovation Broker and Education Director of the Food Agility CRC said “this project has the potential to help students and early career researchers develop needed business skills including teamwork and collaboration in an industry setting”

Liz Barbour, CEO of the Honey Bee Products CRC agreed – “this project will help develop solutions to challenges such as helping students get a more consistent and reliable mentoring experience, supporting students across different geographical locations.”

Ruth said “Practera will work with CRCs to develop a portfolio of useful digital experiences to facilitate students, researchers and industry practitioners undertake collaborative activities and develop their skills. High-quality experiential learning programs can be costly to run and are not easy to repeat because there are no economies of scale. Practera provides the digital tools to support the design and delivery of quality experiential learning courses at scale”.

The platform steps students through goal setting and skills-development planning framework with multiple opportunities for reflection. Students can earn micro-credentials for their achievements along the way, earning badges that can then be published to other platforms such as LinkedIn. Students can showcase the particular skills they have developed in their applied R&D projects, which are hugely valuable but may not otherwise be recognised in their formal academic achievements.


Practera Newsletter May 2019

This month in experiential learning

Industry news, customer success stories and product updates.

Hi there,

Practera works with educators around the world at the frontier of experiential learning for the future of work. Here is a snapshot of leading thinking and practice.


Interesting news in the world of experiential learning

Forbes published a commentary about a big shift that might impact Higher Ed sooner than expected. Instead of going to college to get a job, students will increasingly be going to a job to get a college degreeHow Great Teachers Are Thinking Outside the Classroom to Help Students LearnTheir classrooms are increasingly diverse, but their responsibilities remain the same: to ensure that all students have access to the learning opportunities that will help them be successful as students and throughout their lives.


Enabling inspiring experiential learning programs

More than 1,000 successful  participants in the Study Melbourne Live Projects Program paved the way for further investment to grow the initiative with Practera in 2019/20 – bigger and better than ever!. University of Melbourne launches Practera app to help students feel welcomed to campus, navigate the city of Melbourne, make the most of student life and develop their skills in a professional environment during their first month.

If you are looking to strengthen or setup your experiential learning program, schedule a free consultation with a senior member of our team


Building the worlds leading platform for experiential learning

We released Practera GO – a ready-to-go employability app solutions for innovative educators that has everything needed to launch world-class employability programs without worrying about budgets, learning content or administrative overhead. For current customers who want to discover the new benefits in a personalised training session – as usual: please reach out to your Practera representative and we are happy to schedule a meeting.


What we write, publish and present at events and conferences

The Co-operative Research Centre Association is developing a pilot Practera platform to support CRC’s in their education and knowledge transfer activities, including mentoring, challenge projects and applied research skills credentialling. If you’d like to learn more, Practera Director, R&D, Ruth Marshall will be delivering a prototype session at the Innovate Collaborate conference in Adelaide, May 28-30. [EduTech] Wes Sonnenreich, Practera Co-Founder and Co-CEO will be part of an EdTech expert paneat EduTech on June 7 (Free Event) [IET Summit] We will be sharing our insights about “Innovation in Employability” at the Study Queensland International Education & Training Summit Tuesday 26 June [CICE] Practera Canada Vice-President Megan Underwood will be speaking about the future of work at the Canada International Conference on Education (CICE-2019) in Toronto, June 24-27 [GIC] Practera co-Founder & Co-CEO Beau Leese will be presenting with the University of Melbourne on the Study Melbourne LIVE Projects program at the Global Internship Conference in Auckland July 2-5 [NSEE] Practera US Vice-President Nikki James will be speaking with UNSW and Northeastern University at the NSEE (National Society of Experiential Learning Conference) September 23-25

We are excited about how experiential learning will change the way we teach and how it will prepare the next generation of learners for the future of work.

If you’d like to learn more or discuss your experiential learning program please contact us

Let's have a chat 
Beau Leese, Co-CEO

Study Melbourne Live Projects Program 2019/20 bigger and better than ever!

Practera is grateful and excited to have been re-appointed by Study Melbourne to extend the innovative LIVE Projects program successfully connecting international students with employers through 2019/20

LIVE Projects is an initiative of the Victorian Government delivered in partnership with education providers and enabled by experiential learning technology company Practera. This initiative offers opportunities for international students to undertake real world business projects for Business, Government and Community organisations. The program commenced in 2017 and has achieved some impressive results with students receiving high quality work-based learning experiences and employers receiving high quality insights from diverse, multinational and multi-disciplinary teams of students.

Impressive results from the first two years

Student Highlights from the 2017-19 include:
9/10 willingness to recommend to peers
94% believe they have improved their employability skills through the program
95% believe they have improved their social connections from joining the Live Projects

Work-integrated learning at scale

More than 1000+ International students have worked in teams to undertake the Live Projects 3-week learning experience and delivered projects for businesses, community organisations and Victorian Government agencies. Previous organisations who have had student teams do Projects for them include Australia Post, Trade Victoria, The Arts Centre and Cricket Australia to name a few.

We are proud to have had University/TAFE and Private Education Partners committed to the program, including the University of Melbourne, RMIT, ACU, Monash, William Angliss, La Trobe University, GCBA, Holmesglen, Victoria University, Central Queensland University, Kangan Institute, Box Hill TAFE, and Gordon TAFE have their students involved in the program.

What’s new for LIVE projects in 2019/20

In 2019/20, Study Melbourne are supporting a further 850 places for students in Victoria to undertake Live Projects. New this year, is the extension of the program to include domestic student participation alongside our international student cohort.

How to get involved

The first cohort will run ‪from 8-26 July, with cohorts in November 2019, February 2020, and July 2020.

Getting involved is easy for anyone anywhere in Australia! If you are a Student, Client or Tertiary provider and like to learn more about Live Projects email our Programs team on

Further information

for Tertiary Education Providers: Participate in our programs

for Businesses: Join the program for free to engage with new talent 

University of Melbourne launches innovative app to support and engage international students during their first month in Melbourne

Arriving in a new city is always difficult for international students. But Practera can help!

The Global Exchange Challenge is a team-based, extracurricular program for international students and exchange alumni at the University of Melbourne. The program helps students feel welcomed to campus, navigate the city of Melbourne, make the most of student life and develop their skills in a professional environment.

According to the World Economic Forum’s list of sixteen 21st century skills in New Vision for Education  collaboration is one of the most critical skills to contribute to students’ future employability. Both programs are designed to help students become better collaborators and deliver project outcomes as they develop their self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

Students make friends and explore their new environment

First, students participated in the induction program which allowed them to meet and build a social network with other international as well as domestic students. During the induction, the students went through a series of enjoyable tasks and activities that enhanced their experience at the university and provided them with useful information like landmarks, Melburnian culture, university life, and student discounts.

Renee, one of 120 students who went through the program said: “It was a good resource for exploring Melbourne and being exposed to the opportunities and resources available, as well as building relationships and seeing new places”.

Experiential learning at the core of the app

Students also needed to set goals for their experiences and engage in bi-weekly reflections. This cycle of planning, executing and reflecting ensured their experience was robust and exciting and prepared them for the requirements of the program that followed – Global Trade Accelerator (GTA). This a virtual program enabling students to work in teams on the market research briefs from national exporters.

Custom apps available to all Practera customers

Practera provides tools and templates to create your own welcome and on boarding apps. If you are interested how it might help your students, let’s have a chat!

University of Melbourne students building real world skills in the Practera Global Trade Accelerator program

It’s a wrap! Congratulations to all 14 teams of the Global Trade Accelerator Program from the University of Melbourne after completing 6 weeks of teamwork and Market Research for Australian exporting companies.

A chance for students to practice their employability skills

The Global Trade Accelerator provides students virtual work integrated learning projects with Australian exporters & trade organisations at large scales. In a team-based experience, students collaborate with exporters to work on a real business problem.

Students benefit from the Practera technology enabled program. Donglin, one of the student participants, highlights the value of the program.“A great program to provide real project experience for students and leverage students’ skills and different cultural background”

Clients were delighted by the high quality of student work

It was a relaxed celebration close-out event hearing from participating inbound and exchange student about their learning experiences, followed by great prizes and networking. One of our Exporting Clients commented, ‘We would like to commend the teams for delivering their reports within such a short timeline, the time and effort spent on the reports was clear and is a credit to them working together to deliver against our brief. Both reports took into consideration our GTA brief, a standout delivery over and above our expectations to provide a very comprehensive analysis of their market including robust recommendations for launch’.

And that’s not the only exporter client who was satisfied. Despite the short duration and being fully virtual, 100% of participating exporters expressed that the final deliverables met or exceeded their expectations, with 42% saying the outcomes significantly exceeded their expectations!

Practera helps universities to provide employability skills programs to their students

If you want to learn more about setting up your own GTA-like program or want to put your students in one of our successful employability programs, explore our programs or let’s have a chat!

Practera launches ready-to-go learning apps for innovative educators who need to help students build employability skills

Practera, Australia’s leading experiential learning startup, today announced Practera GO, a new solution that provides everything needed to launch world-class employability programs without worrying about large budgets, new learning content or complex administrative overhead. 

A trend towards employability skills in Higher Ed

In recent years, higher education institutions have faced a new trend that requires adjustment to their strategy: More and more prospective students (and parents) carefully weigh up their future employment prospects when selecting degrees and universities.

This trend is fuelled by the fact that employers are demanding skills from graduates which are outside the subject area of study in Higher Education.

While still seen as necessary by employers, a graduate’s academic achievements are not sufficient for them to be recruited anymore. Instead, extracurricular activities such as work experience, volunteering, and involvement in clubs and societies are seen as having equal importance as the knowledge and experience acquired through academic study.

How does Practera GO help program managers?

Educators and program managers who need to offer extracurricular employability programs to their students can select from a curated list of high quality app experiences that come pre-loaded with all content and instructions to support learners and industry partners during their program. Free access to the Practera online admin and reporting tool allows program mangers to enrol participants, monitor progress and ensure the employability skill development.

Every app includes all required content and a workflow that is validated by more than 10,000 students delivering successful projects for more than 2,000 industry partners. Based on the experiential learning pedagogy, Practera GO enables seamless feedback loops, which are crucial to develop employability skills.

Key Benefits

  • New employability programs can be created and rolled out in days or weeks instead of months
  • Students and industry partners get supported through mobile apps that structure their experience and automatically collect feedback
  • Program managers get actionable, real-time insights into exactly who needs support and what they should do about it

“Education providers are missing out on massive student engagement and satisfaction opportunities if they aren’t tracking and managing the individual student experiences during the project.”, says Suzy Watson, Co-Founder and Head of Customer Success. “We designed all app experiences based on the experiential learning pedagogy and curated the most relevant content and workflows that works ‘out-of-the-box. This helps professional staff, for example in the careers teams, to successfully roll out high quality programs to their students for a fraction of the cost.”

Are you interested to learn more? Get started for free!

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