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Australian intled closes in on UK economic impact in latest stats

Australia is closing in on overtaking the UK in at least one measure of international education after new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed the economic impact of the industry registered a sixth consecutive year of growth in 2018.

Australia has continued to draw further economic value to its shores. Photo: Jordan Gellie/UnsplashAustralia has continued to draw further economic value to its shores. Photo: Jordan Gellie/Unsplash

Australia's latest economic valuation equates to £19.2bn, compared to the UK's £19.9bn

“Monthly and quarterly statistics… often do not pick up other trends and student behaviour”

The latest statistics revealed the value of Australia’s education exports improved 15% to reach $34.9bn during 2018.

“Over decades of investment, hard work and the commitment of world-class scholars, teachers and administrators, Australia has established a global reputation as a leader in higher education,” education minister Dan Tehan said.

“Australia has a vibrant and high-performing international education sector, so much so the British-based Centre for Global Higher Education predicted Australia will leapfrog the UK to become the world’s second most popular destination for international students this year.”

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the 15% growth was in line with trends from previous years, which have seen the value of international education improve by at least 13% each year since 2014.

Speaking with The PIE News, she echoed Tehan’s comments that the foundation of the success had been established a decade ago and that Australia was likely to overtake the UK, adding that the value of the industry went beyond the monetary.

“Beyond supporting our economy as our nation’s third largest export, educating international students plays a powerful role to open doors and build strong ties for Australia in the world,” she said.

“Australia has established a global reputation as a leader in higher education”

The latest figures show Australia is just short of the UK in terms of economic impact, with the Australian income translating to around £19bn in 2018. In the UK, the most recent data on the economic impact of international education saw it contribute £19.9bn to the British economy in 2016, according to its Department for Education.

At a national level, figures show a sector holding steady during a politically charged period which has seen it come under increased scrutiny, in the lead up toNew South Wales’ state election scheduled for March, and the federal election likely to occur in May.

Chief executive of IEAA, Phil Honeywood, warned against using the latest economic data as an indicator of the success of the industry.

“Monthly and quarterly statistics might serve a particular purpose for some commentators, however, they often do not pick up other trends and student behaviour,” he said.

“If every university is increasing their tuition fees by approximately 4% per year and accommodation and other costs are increasing at a similar rate, then you don’t have to be too clever to see that so-called record value will increase anyway.”

“Our Government is working to promote regional Australia”

Among the factors hidden by the data, Honeywood said traditional indicators such as English language and foundation courses had seen subdued enrolments and could be an indicator of an overall decrease soon.

“Having said that, clearly Australia is yet to recently experience anything like the major downturns that have been a feature of this industry over the last two decades,” he told The PIE.

Announcing the new economic figures, Tehan reiterated the government’s ambition to increase the number of international students in regional Australia.

“Our government is working to promote regional Australia as a destination for international students, so our regional communities can also enjoy the economic and cultural benefits that international students bring,” he said.

His remarks follow similar comments he made a day earlier at the first roundtable on increasing students to regions held at Deakin University in Warrnambool.

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