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WA lags behind other states and territories in international student demand

Media release

A report released today by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) and the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy (JCIPP) highlights WA’s falling share of international students over the last decade, with growth in the value of international education for the State lagging substantially behind other Australian states and territories.

The report – Western Australia’s International Education Sector – examines the performance and prospects for WA’s international education sector, and looks at trends and future scenarios in international student enrolments across all education sectors. The report also considers future scenarios that could serve to reverse the current decline in WA’s share of international student enrolments.

WA’s international education sector is currently valued at $1.4bn, yet provides a lower share of WA’s service exports than all other states and territories, other than the Northern Territory.

A scenario in which WA achieves its population share of international student enrolments by 2020 would see total enrolments increasing by 80 per cent to 91,200. This would see revenue reach $2.6bn, growing by $1.2bn, and an additional 8,000 jobs added to the economy.

There have been 50,500 international onshore student enrolments into WA in 2015. However, WA’s share of international enrolments into Australia has dropped from 9.9 per cent in 2002 to 7.8 per cent in 2015.

Higher education international student enrolments into WA have dropped from 11.2 per cent of the national share to 6.8 per cent over the same period. Only Vocational Education and Training (VET) enrolments have increased over the period.

Professor Alan Duncan, BCEC Director, said WA’s declining share of Australia’s international education market stems in part from a failure to capitalise on growth in student numbers in both the higher education sector and from China.

“Our findings suggest ‘selling’ Perth and WA as a desirable study destination is an important priority in developing the State’s future international education strategy,” Professor Duncan said.

“The attractiveness of Western Australia as a study destination for international students could be enhanced with streamlined access to courses, and by enhancing the student experience in WA. This would serve both to attract students to the State and to create future cohorts of advocates for study in WA.”

The report found the distance between the home country and WA, and alignment of time zones, are important positive factors in growing the State’s international student base.

“There is great potential for WA to exploit its proximity to Asia to increase the market share of international students choosing to enrol in the WA education sector,” Professor Duncan said.

“The strength of the State’s labour market, especially the availability of future employment opportunities, is also a key driver of international student demand. Student commencements are stronger in those states, and in those time periods, with lower levels of unemployment and higher average salaries.”

Professor John Phillimore, JCIPP Executive Director, said WA was in the process of drafting a strategy for the international education sector.

“International education is an important part of WA’s economic strategy. It is therefore important that the State sharpens the focus and resources being applied to international education and the governance surrounding its promotion and development,” Professor Phillimore said.

“WA requires a focussed, coordinated and inclusive State strategy to capture its fair share of international student enrolments into the future.”