11/06/2009 - 00:00

Sector wary of attacks

11/06/2009 - 00:00

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WESTERN Australia's $840 million international education sector could be under threat as tensions escalate following a series of attacks against Indian students on the east coast.

WESTERN Australia's $840 million international education sector could be under threat as tensions escalate following a series of attacks against Indian students on the east coast.

Rod Jones, the managing director of education provider Navitas, said overseas media coverage of the attacks incorporated all of Australia and not just Melbourne where the first incidents occurred.

"I'd like to think sanctions aren't going to occur. Clearly it's a major issue, and we all have to deal with it effectively, Mr Jones said.

"There's a lot going on upfront and behind the scenes to make sure this doesn't get out of control."

The attacks, which spurred Indian groups to stand guard at railway stations in Melbourne's west and sparked a protest in Sydney following an alleged assault on a young Indian man, have received broad coverage in India and could lead to sanctions, or at least a drop in student numbers.

The international education sector contributes more than $14 billion to the national economy and is worth almost $840 million to WA, according to Access Economics, with Chinese and Indian students the main contributors.

Mr Jones said numerous language colleges were forced to close after the Tiananmen Square student protests of 1989, which led to Chinese government laws impeding overseas study. He said Navitas had a diversified student base.

Perth Education City (PEC) chairman and Murdoch University deputy vice-chancellor Gary Martin condemned the violence against international students and said the students made a valuable financial and cultural contribution.

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