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Australia: Rise in overseas students pushed economy

March 19, 2009 10:20 IST

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Amid global financial downturn, the number of overseas students in Australia continued to rise with around 60, 000 this year that has contributed to push the country's economy.

The enrollments of overseas students from countries like China and India rose by 21 per cent this January that has prompted the government to launch new initiatives of 3.5 million dollars, according to a government figure released on Wednesday.

The government will organise international events to woo foreign students detailing them about Australian courses in countries like China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, media reports said in Melbourne.

The part of the new strategy would also focus on welfare of international students and the support network available to them in Australia.

Julia Gillard, the minister for education, said she was increasingly concerned about faltering overseas enrollments. Early signs for this year have been encouraging, she said, adding that the action was needed because of worsening global economic crisis.

"I want Australia to be seen by international students as a welcoming place to study for a globally recognised education qualification," she said.

Higher education was becoming more competitive and greater intelligence was needed about what the country's international competitors were doing, she added.

Of the total 298,462 overseas enrollments, Indian and Chinese students have been seen in large number.

The enrollments rose at Australian vocation education training centres and universities at the start of the year. Hospitality, management and commerce courses are the most popular.

According to experts, students from affluent Asian middle classes are pursuing higher education for security enticed by the lower Australian dollar during the economic downturn.

Glenn Withers, the chief executive of Universities Australia, said the education sector generated $15.5 billion in export earnings last year and it will start to challenge mining as the nation's biggest industry.

He said the sector needed to maintain existing overseas markets and diversify in Latin America, Vietnam and Eastern Europe. Enrollments for 2010 will be significantly higher, he said, and "the Australian dollar is a big factor."

The figures did not yet include the March commencement period, but deputy prime minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday described the growth as encouraging and showing the strength of a local industry now worth $14.2 billion a year.

The growth is led by China, which had more than 70,000 students enrolled in in January, followed by India with almost 60,000 students.

The vocational education sector, which has campaigned strongly overseas in recent years, continued to record the highest growth, up to 46.3 per cent during the same period last year.

But the higher education sector ranked first by volume of enrollments, recording growth of more than 7 per cent in enrollments and more than 11 per cent in commencements.



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