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Education demand up

SINCE the downturn began engulfing the world's economies late last year, Western Australia's educational institutions have noted significant increases in demand from international students.

Over the past six months, Perth International College of English has experienced strong enrolment figures.

PICE director John Paxton said his institution has had six record sales months in a row.

"September, October, November, December, January and February have all been the best months, year on year, that I've had," Mr Paxton said.

Mr Paxton said rough figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that about $1.4 billion was pulled into the state through international education in the past financial year.

Perth Education City executive director Mike Ryan pointed to federal government student visa data that showed commencements, or new students starting a course, in WA grew by 27 per cent in the past year.

"And for the first time in a decade WA also grew our Australian market share of new international students starting a course," Mr Ryan said.

Meanwhile, total enrolment figures for Murdoch University have reached record levels after maintaining consistent growth over the past few years.

According to the Murdoch's director of student liaison and recruitment David Macey, international student figures have increased by 6.3 per cent in the past year.

"Whenever recession grips, the education sector does well because people need the qualifications," Professor Macey said.

"We're up, whether we continue to be up in the forthcoming future is unknown."

Edith Cowan University International director John Wade also highlighted significant increases in overseas student enrolments.

"ECU's international onshore commencements for semester one 2009 are 15 per cent more than at the same time in 2008," Mr Wade said.

But, these increases in demand could not be attributed to a single factor.

"What people do in times of financial crisis... they up-skill themselves by going overseas and learning English, so when they come back to their country they have an advantage over their fellow working cohorts," Mr Paxton said.

"That sort of idea of coming out to experience Australia, learn English as fast as you can and go back to your country with an added advantage is a very plausible argument as to the reason why.

"But the Australian dollar is also significant.

"I've been doing it for 15 years now in one way or another and nothing is black and white as far as factors are concerned."

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