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Australian education exports fall 15%, 2011

Despite great expectations surrounding visa reforms introduced in September after the Knight Review, Australia still has a way to go before it halts its recruitment downslide. A report from the International Education Association of Australia released last week shows that the country’s education exports fell by 15% in 2011 – a haircut of AUS$2.7 billion for an industry worth $18.5 billion in 2009-10.

More than half of the decline was felt in NSW and Victoria, Australia’s top two education exporters by state

More than half of the decline was felt in the states of New South Wales and Victoria, Australia’s top two education exporters by state; each of which lost AUS$1 billion in value.

Talking to Australian Broadcast Corporation’s World Today programme, director of the association Phil Honeywood said: “Across Australia we’ve got a 15 per cent average downfall compared to 2010 to 2011, but in states that rely heavily on international education, such as Victoria, it’s as high as 19 per cent reduction in revenue and that is Victoria’s biggest export industry.”

Honeywood blamed the strong Australian dollar and high costs of student accommodation and public transport in major Australian cities. He also said that competitors such as Canada, the USA and New Zealand were recruiting more aggressively and that the Australian industry would feel more pain next year.

Others said that the recent changes to the student visa system made in response to the Knight Review needed to be extended to help Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges and other private providers. “The competition for the international student market is acute, and we have to move quickly,” said New South Wales, Premier Barry O’Farrell.

“We have to do more to coordinate the approach we have to this industry”

There were some rays of hope, with the Northern Territory seeing a 3% rise in revenue and South Australia avoiding the drubbing faced by other states. In New South Wales, international education still added AUS$5.8 billion to the economy and remained its second most valuable export after coal. The industry remained Victoria’s most valuable export.

Honeywood said he was encouraged by the establishment of an international education advisory council headed by Michael Chaney, which will coordinate various federal government departments over issues such as student accommodation. He was also optimistic about the recent extension of work rights to up two years for all bachelor-level students.

However, he warned, “It’s vital that the international education industry is recognised appropriately. It’s a major draw card for Australia’s various state economies and we have to do more to coordinate the approach we have to this industry, similar to how we look after the tourism industry and other key industries to the Australian economy.”

Australia is the third largest provider of international education after the US and the UK. One in five of its tertiary students are international.

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