29/07/2010 - 00:00

Job losses loom in international education

29/07/2010 - 00:00

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A significant downturn in the international education sector has put about 2,500 Western Australian jobs within the industry at risk, according to the International Education Association of Australia.

Job losses loom in international education

A significant downturn in the international education sector has put about 2,500 Western Australian jobs within the industry at risk, according to the International Education Association of Australia.

The IEAA blames a combination of factors relating to federal government policies for the downturn, which it believes could cost the $18 billion industry 35,000 jobs nationally.

These factors include the failure of successive governments to invest sufficiently in the industry and ad hoc, damaging policies, including the frequent and ill-considered student visa and immigration policy changes.

Universities Australia says the problems facing the sector were a “perfect storm”, which threatens Australia’s position as a preferred destination for educational experience.

Among these were a stronger Australian dollar, aggressive student recruitment from other countries, particularly the US, and reputational damage from attacks on international students.

Other issues cited by Universities Australia were the collapse of many private colleges, and government policy changes to student visas and skilled migration.

According to the IEAA, international student enrollments in 2010-11 are expected to drop about 30 per cent, or between 100,000 and 125,000, across universities, VET, schools and the English language industry.

That downturn is expected to have an impact in WA, where the international education sector was valued at about $1.125 billion in 2008-09.

“It would be bigger now,” IEAA executive director Dennis Murray said.

He said international education was the largest export industry in Victoria and the second largest in New South Wales.

“The big ones for you are of course, iron ore, gold, natural gas and so on. Education is your eighth largest export industry. It’s on a par with tourism in the west,” Mr Murray said..

He said it would take at least 11 years to recover the robust position the sector held in 2009.

“On our current projection we won’t be back to 2009 levels until 2020,” Mr Murray said.

The IEAA has released a five-point action plan to help the international education sector weather the potential losses.

It wants: a bi-partisan approach to the sector; the development of an international education strategy; the appointment of a parliamentary secretary for the sector; increased investment in industry resource and development; and $100 million to support industry restructuring and promote the sector during the current downturn.

Mr Murray said there was an urgent need to implement the Baird Review into the sector, which was released earlier this year, particularly the recommendations regarding stronger tuition protection with appropriate government investment to ensure the viability of the system.

 

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