International students contributed $15.7 billion to Australian economy in 2014

Despite a massive negative publicity in 2009 when there were few instances of attacks on Indian students, Australia’s export income from international students has shown steady growth. Official figures indicate that those handful of isolated cases blown out of proportion by the media, mostly Indian media, have long been forgotten. Australia’s export education industry is clearly a winner today.

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According to Department of Education and Training records, international education onshore activity in Australia contributed $15.7 billion to the local economy in 2013-14. This is the total income generated by international students (from across the globe) studying and living in Australia.

With 48,217 enrollments in 2014, India stands second in rank while a total of 17,921 Nepalese students were enrolled during the period. Interestingly, 2014 figures show that two South Asian countries registered massive growths over 2013 enrollments. Nepal registered a whopping 27.2% growth rate and Pakistan was at 15.9%.

The Australian education sector made $15.0 billion in calendar year in 2013 while it had made $14.6 billion in financial year 2012-13. A research snapshot issued by Australian Bureau of Statistics show that 2014 figures registered a 4.9% increase over that of 2013. On the other hand, it is a 8.2% increase if compared with the financial year 2012.

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The International Education Advisory Council, chaired by Michael Chaney AO, provided its advice to the federal government on 27 February 2013. According to the report of the committee, which was headed by the chairman of National Australia Bank, estimated that Australia’s export education industry is set to grow to $19 billion by 2020.

While growth is possible, the international education industry is not without challenges. The committee warned that the Australian universities could face serious competition from their counterparts abroad. New Asian institutions that impart education in English and MOOCs (massive open online courses) will provide abundant options to international students seeking higher education abroad.

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Cost of education (combined fees and cost of living) is a major challenge facing international students in Australia. Thus, it is a major challenge to Australia’s education export industry.

Chaney’s report points out that cost of education is likely to hijack Australia’s competitiveness in the global education industry. The rising dollar further complicates the matter for Australia. “The reputation of Australian universities as measured by international rankings has seen some improvement over the past few years, but studying in Australia has become significantly more expensive,” the report maintains. The average annual cost of studying and living in Australia in 2011 was $44,000 compared to $37,000 in the United States and $30,000 in the United Kingdom.

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