The Value of International Education to Australia report, compiled by Deloitte Access Economics, found international education contributed more than A$19.7bn for 2014/15. However, it recommends the government do more to promote the social and cultural value of international students.
Richard Colbeck, minister for tourism and international education welcomed the figures and said, “International education is already one of our top two services exports, along with tourism, and is one of five key super-growth sectors that will support our transitioning economy into the next decade.”
To estimate the new figure, the study examined and quantified additional avenues of export revenue not captured in previous statistics
To estimate the new figure, the study examined and quantified additional avenues of export revenue not captured in previous statistics.
Those included non-student visa holders studying ELICOS courses (A$205m), tourism activities from visiting friends and family (A$282m), study tours ($14m) and offshore campuses (A$434m).
The total contribution of these avenues was A$935m.
According to the report, the new estimate is conservative as “little information is available on the offshore revenue earned by private providers.”
While the report acknowledges export revenue as useful to understanding the general value activity within the industry has created, it says GDP is a more accurate measure of net worth.
In 2014/15, international education contributed A$17.1bn to Australia’s GDP. This was made up of A$12.1bn in revenue directly added though goods and services consumed by international students, and A$5bn of indirect revenue through goods and services consumed by institutions.
International Education Association of Australia executive director Phil Honeywood said the figures are useful, but called for further action to be taken.
“Clearly, when it comes to lobbying government to provide greater support to our sector’s needs, then it is always good to have reliable data and analysis on hand,” he told The PIE News.
“This particular report will assist our association better identify infrastructure priorities such as where better student accommodation and public transport projects need to be provided for.”
The report itself acknowledges the wider benefit of international education and recommends strategies be developed to shift “the sector’s messaging [towards] the social and cultural benefits… rather than just its role as one of Australia’s largest exports”.
Efforts should be in place to raise awareness of the role international students play in creating a diverse community, it adds.
The sector’s messaging should shift towards “the social and cultural benefits… rather than just its role as one of Australia’s largest exports”
Commenting on the public perception of international students in Australia, Honeywood said some Australians think international students take both education enrolment places and jobs away from domestic students.
“We have seen what has happened to international education in the UK when such perceptions take hold. What the sector has to better communicate in Australia is that the reverse is actually true – international education creates jobs and better integrates our nation with the global community.”
As well as the economic value of international education, the report estimates the industry supports over 130,000 full-time jobs, around 1.3% of Australia’s total employment.
“The growing importance of international education to Australia is evident from the more than 130,000 jobs it creates and the businesses that benefit from it – directly and indirectly across the retail, hospitality, property sectors and more,” said Colbeck.
Graduates also account for 130,000 skilled migrants entering the Australian workforce, which the report estimates contribute an approximate A$8.7m to GDP.
The human capital of international graduates doesn’t include other potential values they contribute to the workforce, such as international collaboration and trade and investment links.
The report came in the lead up to the announcement of Australia’s National Strategy on International Education.