SARS could cost Western Australian educators tens of millions of dollars and potentially leave a more than $200 million hole in university budgets around Australia as they close campuses and reschedule classes in Asia.
In addition, significantly more millions are under threat if restrictions are placed on international students seeking to study in Australia.
WA is likely to be one of the States hit hardest by SARS – properly known as severe acute respiratory syndrome.
Department of Education, Science and Training records show there were more than 8,500 students studying in WA-run overseas courses in 2002 while a further 12,000 over-seas students attended classes here.
DEST figures put the revenue earned in Australian university campuses based in Asia at more than $200 million a year.
However, Perth Education City managing director John Yudall, who is leading a group to Singapore on May 24, believes the real impact will be better known in the coming weeks as the universities embark on their annual Asian recruitment drive.
“There is no doubt the numbers will be lower,” he said.
“The next month will give us a better picture.”
DEST figures show a total of 42,437 students were enrolled in Australian courses offshore in 2001. Of these, 30,122 were en-rolled at campuses offshore and 12,143 were enrolled in distance education.
Most – 38,465 – of these were based in Asia. In 2001, more than 12,000 were based in Hong Kong and around 2,500 in China – the two areas hardest hit by SARS. Singapore has another 13,000 enrolled offshore.
In WA, Curtin University is likely to be the most affected with around 5,000 students based offshore while the University of WA and Edith Cowan also risk losing millions of dollars in potential revenue.
Curtin University has around half of the total number of students from overseas studying with WA institutions.
A DEST report Finance 2001, Selected Higher Education Statistics shows that fee paying overseas students, including those that came to WA campuses, were worth around $150 million.
WA Business News’ Book of Lists 2003 ranks Curtin as the 21st largest WA exporter. It generated nearly $100 million from overseas students in 2001-02.
UWA, with a significantly smaller presence has total export revenue of $22 million while Edith Cowan had 15 per cent of its revenue from offshore students studying in either WA or its overseas campuses.
UWA Business School dean Paul McLeod said the university had rescheduled some of its classes operating in Shanghai and Singapore and was also providing lectures over the Internet, or via video link to avoid sending lecturers into the region.
An ANZ report on the effects of SAR on the Australian education sector downplayed the likely impact on Australia’s economy.
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