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The Education Destination : The Education Destination
International students are part of Australia’s campuses. They are enriching us culturally and helping to forge trading relations with many economies. According to the RBA, China and India’s combined share of Australia’s education services are now a third (on 2006-07) compared to just under 9% a decade or so ago (on 1995-96). The RBA paper was keen to point out that Australia’s export relationships with China and India were not just ‘rocks and crops’ (i.e. mining and agriculture) and that the services sector, in terms of professional services, financial services and education, were also doing their bit as well. The RBA data shows that China and India are making a difference to Australia ‘at the chalk face’ (i.e. education) as well as ‘at the coal face’ and that medium-term prospects were still solid despite the global slowdown. Cultural enrichment and building human links China and India haven’t always dominated the overseas student community on Australian campuses. For example, when I was at university, most overseas students were from the ASEAN nations – made up of a mixture of Colombo plan scholarships and private students. In fact, in the book The Airport Economist, in the chapter Everyone loves Raymond, I tell the tale that in the honours year above me in Economics at the University of Adelaide, 11 out of 15 students were from Singapore and Malaysia. For some reason the Singapore government sent a bunch of crack nuclear physicists who were meant to go to Oxford or Cambridge to be rocket scientists but they all ended up at Adelaide doing economics. There were enormous spill-over benefi ts for me then (as the Singaporeans were very good at econometrics) and now, as many of these students have become senior politicians in Singapore and Malaysia (eg. Raymond Lim in Singapore the focus of the Everyone loves Raymond chapter). Education in the global financial crisis But whether it is rocket scientists from ASEAN or engineers and IT students from China and India, international students are well and truly part of Australia’s schools, TAFEs and campuses, and are enriching us culturally and helping to forge trading relations with many economies. But how will the global fi nancial crisis (GFC) affect this mutually beneficial arrangement? There are four key points that can be made. 1. All sectors of the Australian economy are being affected in some way, so the $14.2 billion Australian international education sector will not be immune from the GFC. 2. The GFC is (unfortunately) a synchronised downturn, with most economies entering recession at the same time, so Australia’s education competitors will also be affected. For more information, see www.austrade.gov.au/economistscorner 3. Thanks to the fl oating exchange rate, we have seen an adjustment downwards of the Australian dollar compared to 12 months ago, so the relative competitiveness of Australian education providers has improved. In the past year, the dollar has fallen against the currencies of eight of our top 10 source countries, and against our main competitors as well. 4. In a downturn, the economic evidence suggests that there is a fl ight back to education to re-train and upgrade qualifi cations to improve employment prospects. This is good news, especially for universities and TAFEs, but it can also potentially put pressure on places. For the most part, however, international education often gets through crises (such as the Asian Financial Crisis) in much better shape than other export sectors, as education is seen as a long-term investment that will benefi t workers and the nation as a whole when times improve. The long-term future is one of moderate growth given the importance of investing in education for long-term productivity growth. And when all is said and done, I can say that I not only went to uni with several cabinet ministers from Singapore and Malaysia but I have now also met a real live Sheriff! ¦ Tim Harcourt is Chief Economist with the Australian Trade Commission and the author of The Airport Economist (see www.theairporteconomist.com). Thanks to Peter Mackey, Purnima Ganapathy and Theresa Fairman for their assistance with this article. Far left: Tim Harcourt, Chief Economist, Australian Trade Commission Left: In the global crisis, education is seen as a long-term investment that will benefi t both individuals and economies. Image courtesy of Visions of Victoria. Below: When students come to Australia, they build networks with people from around the world. Image courtesy of William Angliss Institute, Melbourne, Victoria. Australia: The Education Destination 9 ABOUT AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION
Australia The Education Destination 2010