Liberal leader Steven Marshall has promised to restore and increase funding to South Australia’s international student marketing body, Education Adelaide.
Marshall announced today that, if elected, a Liberal Government would contribute $2 million a year to the body, which will be asked to develop a strategy to grow SA’s international student numbers from 28,000 to 40,000 in 10 years.
Education Adelaide, jointly funded by the State Government, the Adelaide City Council and SA’s three universities, is responsible for promoting the city’s education offerings to potential international students.
The State Government announced last year $1.6 million in annual funding would be cut from Education Adelaide from 2015-16 – a figure representing 60 per cent of the organisation’s budget. However, it is reviewing the role of Education Adelaide as part of a “total rethink” of the State’s approach to international student marketing.
The funding decision attracted public outcry from the state’s three universities who were worried about a potential fall in international student numbers that might result.
In its latest annual report Education Adelaide said if that funding were lost “the viability of Education Adelaide would be severely in doubt”.
Marshall said today that Education Adelaide was “the only organisation providing strategic and ongoing support to grow this vital sector”.
“International education is our number one service export market and it needs to be supported as such,” he said.
“The 40,000 student target in 10 years is an important economic driver for our State.
“The more people active in our economy, the better. International students shop, rent, travel and contribute to CBD vibrancy. This means job creation.
“Boosting our international student numbers will have a flow-on effect for the construction, retail and tourism industries and the economy as a whole.”
Acting Higher Education Minister Michael O’Brien said today the State Government’s role was to fill any gaps in the universities’ overseas marketing efforts.
“We’re conducting a fairly substantial review of our activities in the educational space to see whether we can bolster the work that is being done by the universities to ensure that we increase the numbers (of international students) significantly,” he said.
He said state finances were tight and the Government wanted to get the best result for the taxpayers’ dollar.
Other states were copying the Education Adelaide structure for student marketing which meant now was the time to “re-examine the model to see if we can do it differently and better”.
O’Brien said the review had examined the State’s education marketing strategy, including Education Adelaide’s role, and a report was due to go to Cabinet.
“It can’t be business as usual. The model served us quite well over the previous decade but now is the time for a total rethink.”
Education Adelaide claims international education is the state’s number one service export, and the State’s sixth largest export overall, contributing $863 million to the local economy last year – down from $925 million in 2010/11.
It argues the State has outperformed interstate competitors over the last decade, growing international student numbers at a rate above the national average for seven years in the last decade.
In October last year there were 27,043 international students enrolled at the state’s universities, Federal Government statistics show.
Over the past decade international education has become a major export industry for Australia, growing at a national average of 5.8 per cent per year between 2002 and 2012.
However in the last few years growth has fallen sharply and even gone backwards, a trend Education Adelaide attributes to a rising Australian dollar and changes to skilled migration visas by the Federal Government.
The market is highly lucrative for the state’s universities, who are able to charge up-front unsubsidised fees to international students.
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