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Gold star as education exports hit $1bn mark

- JACKSON GOTHE-SNAPE TUESDAY JUNE 23 2015

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.

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