Australia dismisses loss of overseas students as ‘good thing’

Sydney: Unfazed by a massive drop of $3 billion in the revenue from international students in the last one year, Australian Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans has even managed to call it ”a good thing”.

The minister has refused to accept any criticism for a fall in the revenue from international students studying in Australia saying that such a drop-off was expected.

A major part of the drop in the number of international students coming to Australia is being blamed on the 26 per cent drop in Indian students in 2011. A similar drop in the number of Indian students commencing studies in Australian universities and vocational training colleges was also recorded in 2010.

“It’s a good thing in the sense that the cleaning up of the education sector has allowed our quality providers, our universities, and our better TAFE (training and further education) and other colleges to promote Australia as a quality international education sector,” Evans said addressing a conference on higher education at Canberra.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures, earnings from the international education sector have dropped to $13.9 billion last year. The revenue from education exports was $17.2 billion in 2010 with a peak of $17.7 billion hit in 2009.
In spite of the above-mentioned massive percentage drops, India continues to be the second largest source of international students for Australia.

The declining earnings from international students are also being held responsible by Australian economy experts for a slow-down in the growth of GDP.

Recently-released ABS figures have revealed that the Australian GDP slowed to 0.4 per cent in the December quarter from 0.8 per cent in the quarter before. More than a third of this GDP drop is being attributed to losses in international education revenue.

In 2010, Australia peak higher education body Universities Australia had commissioned a report about the decline in international students’ recruitment.
Deloitte Access Economics report had expressed concern that a negative sentiment could hit the international education industry and could lead to a fall of three per cent in student recruitment by the Australian education providers.

The actual decline in the international students is a whopping 20 per cent. The worst result since 2007 has failed to faze the Australian tertiary education Minister.

“The fall-off has been in the lower levels of vocational courses and that reflects the government’s decision that I made when I was Immigration Minister to end the migration rorts. That sector was [characterised] by visa-rorting; people being sold a visa rather than an education,” Chris Evans said. As expected, the minister spin has left Australian international education providers fuming.

University of Melbourne higher education expert Simon Marginson was quoted by The Australia as saying that the said revenue growth since 2007 had been wiped out. “It bears out our worst fears about the downturn,” he said.