Concerns over increased dependency of Queensland universities on international students

22 May 2019: Universities in Queensland are becoming too dependent on international students, Queensland Audit Office (QAO) has warned, with one particular university making more money from overseas students than from their local counterparts.

A recent report by the QAO, the independent auditor of the Queensland public sector, indicates that while domestic students are still the primary source of their revenue, ” a competitive domestic market and the Australian Government funding freeze have led to universities seeking to increase their revenue from international students”.

“The growth in international student revenue continues to be greater than the growth in domestic student revenue. Since 2014, revenue from international students has increased 59.8 per cent to $1.4 billion, with 18 per cent growth in 2018 alone. By comparison, domestic student revenue remained steady in 2018 at $2.5 billion, with 12.5 per cent growth since 2014,” the QAO report reveals.

Although revenue from domestic students is also growing, the growth in revenue from international students, famously referred to as the “cash cows” in a recent Four Corners report, continues to be greater.

“The concentration of students from a limited number of countries increases the risks in terms of overseas competition, foreign exchange rates, and global politics. Universities are working to minimise these risks by expanding their markets,” reads the report titled Education: 2017–18 results of financial audits.

Although all universities have cashed in on the boom in international education sector, the University of Queensland has made a record by being the first university to receive more revenue from international students than from their domestic counterparts.

The University of Queensland has increased its revenue from international students by 83.6 per cent since 2014, the Queensland Audit Office’s report claims, with 50.6 per cent of student revenue now derived from international students only.

“The University of Queensland has historically had higher revenue from research, consultancy and contracts than other universities. While this is still the case in 2018, the revenue from these sources is marginally less than it was in 2014. As a result, the university’s reliance on international student revenue to maintain service delivery has increased,” the QAO report further states.

Australia is the world’s third most popular destination country for international students – the US and UK being the first and second choices respectively. Australia’s international student growth rate is much stronger than that of the US and UK, the report says, having attracted students from over 180 countries in 2018.

The “limited number of countries” that the Queensland Audit Office report talks about are of course China at the lead followed by India and its southern neighbour Nepal.

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