14/08/2018 - 09:49

International students bypass WA

14/08/2018 - 09:49


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South Australia is giving Western Australia a run for its money in the race to attract international students.

International students bypass WA
Phil Payne says StudyPerth is planning to launch a destination marketing campaign over the next three years, with China a priority. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

South Australia is giving Western Australia a run for its money in the race to attract international students.

The latest data compiled by the federal Department of Education and Training shows Perth’s market share of international students fell to 6.2 per cent, with total commencements for the year to May dropping by 0.4 per cent in both WA’s VET and higher education sectors.

While SA’s total market share (4.2 per cent) is still below that of WA, the southern state is closing the gap. For the second time since 2015, SA surpassed WA in higher education commencement numbers (4,889 versus 4,762 international students).

SA has also overtaken WA in terms of Chinese students, with 2,057 commencements in SA compared with just 1,041 in WA in the year to May.

On a national level Australia experienced 82 per cent growth in Chinese students, the largest increases were in Victoria (115 per cent) and Queensland (80 per cent), followed by NSW (65 per cent), SA (52 per cent). WA recorded just 10.2 per cent growth for the year to May.


StudyPerth executive director Phil Payne said while it was concerning, the drop in WA’s numbers was a continuing trend, with a succession of state governments not providing the support or attention the sector has warranted.

“There are no quick fixes,” Mr Payne told Business News.

“But with recent staffing changes in the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, the WA government has a great opportunity to review the support for international education and the coordination of the related functions of education and training, tourism, migration and trade, and investment.”

Mr Payne said one potential reason other states were attracting at least five times the number of Chinese students than WA was due to engagement, with Asian markets’ responsiveness to ongoing contact and face-to-face engagement being met by representations from other states. 

The lack of affordable purpose-built CBD student accommodation in WA could be another factor. Two developments in Northbridge to open next year will be the first in the state specifically for overseas students.

Changes to WA’s skilled migration occupation list had also likely made it harder to attract students considering living in Perth long-term.

Mr Payne said StudyPerth planned to work alongside accommodation providers, and had already engaged global marketing consultancy TrinityP3 to assist in planning a destination marketing campaign over the next three years, with the first priority being China, specifically the City of Perth sister cities of Nanjing and Chengdu.

Employability and enterprise were other priorities for StudyPerth, with a project plan to be launched later this year.

Australian Institute of Management WA chief executive Gary Martin said boosting numbers was the joint responsibility of all leaders in WA, not just those within the government and education sectors.

“International students purchase a wide range of goods and services from restaurants, to purchasing insurance, to taking tours,” he said.

“We need leaders across all sectors to come together to remedy what is rapidly becoming a serious issue for our business community.”


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