Gold star as education exports hit $1bn mark
SOUTH Australia’s education exports have topped the billion dollar mark for the first time, after surging by more than $100 million in a year.
And the state is poised to overtake Western Australia as the country’s fourth-largest market as it continues to punch above its weight.
But some within the sector fear the negative pressures brought on by a reliance on international student revenue.
The value of the state’s education-related international trade leapt across the billion dollar threshold in 2014, rising more than $100 million to $1.06 billion, according to the ABS. More than 30,000 international students are enrolled in higher education in South Australia, supporting about 8000 local full-time jobs.
State Education Minister Gail Gago said the economic benefits to SA extended far beyond places of study.
“International students pay for accommodation, shop in our local businesses and visit our local tourist attractions, and 13 per cent have at least one parent visit during each 12month period, for an average of three weeks.”
The state put aside almost $6 million in last week’s Budget to promote itself in key international student markets in China and South East Asia.
UniSA Chief Academic Officer Professor Allan Evans said the growth reflected the commitment of universities nationally to provide internationally relevant degrees.
“Each year we educate more than 6000 international students who enrich the learning and social experiences for all our students and make valuable contributions to our vibrant campus communities.”
Ron Smee, state president of the National Tertiary Education Union, said the contacts these students made during their studies here might be more valuable than just their raw economic contribution.
He also said that in the current environment of limited government funding, the reliance on attracting foreign students was not always positive because incidents like the bashings of Indian students or currency fluctuations were mostly out of universities’ control. “A few isolated instances like that, they can have an enormous impact,” he said.
“The exposure makes the universities nervous.”
2014 also proved a record year for nationwide educational exports – $17.6 million in total.
Federal Employment Minister Christopher Pyne said “these figures confirm international education as Australia’s largest services export and our fourth largest export overall after iron ore, coal and natural gas.”
The eastern states dominate the share of educational exports, with WA fourth at $1.26 billion but with stagnant growth over the previous six years.