14/05/2009 - 00:00

$4m sought to target international students

14/05/2009 - 00:00

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AN industry body responsible for the promotion of Western Australia's $840 million international education sector is expected to secure ongoing funding from the state government this week.

$4m sought to target international students

AN industry body responsible for the promotion of Western Australia's $840 million international education sector is expected to secure ongoing funding from the state government this week.

Perth Education City has been seeking about $2 million a year for the next two years, to promote local private and public learning institutions to overseas students.

Education Minister Liz Constable said the government would work with WA's international education sector to build on recent growth.

"The ongoing funding arrangements for international education will be included in [the] state budget," Ms Constable said in a statement to WA Business News.

The number of international students starting their courses in February and March in WA increased substantially compared to the corresponding period last year, statistics released by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations show.

International students often pay upwards of $20,000 a year in tuition fees to either learn English and/or obtain a degree. Language schools linked to universities can tie students into several years of study, first to learn English and second to obtain a degree, creating a boon for the sector, which has a flow-on benefit for the local rental, entertainment and tourism industries.

PEC chairman Professor Gary Martin said the impact of the economic downturn would not be felt in the sector for some months as students' decision to go to Australia was made a long time before their actual arrival.

He said any decline in international student numbers would also have a significant impact on other sectors that benefited from a large student population, and that advertising budgets had to be maintained.

"People are nervous about what the next six months will hold," said Professor Martin, who is also deputy vice-chancellor of Murdoch University.

"The tourist dollar is very significant and that's because the students are building ties with WA, and their families and friends overseas do come to visit."

PEC is a joint industry-government initiative comprised of a membership of private and public universities, colleges and schools, which contribute about one dollar for every four received from the government.

The number of international students from China, India, Malaysia and Brazil has increased in recent years while intakes from Hong Kong and the US have decreased.

Ms Constable said WA could still improve because it had a relatively low share of international student enrolments from the key markets of China (4.7 per cent) and India (5.1 per cent) compared to the other states.

A recent Access Economics report found that the international education industry was the country's third biggest export industry, behind coal and iron ore, with a $14 billion contribution to the economy.

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