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The need to grow international student numbers in the NT - time to look beyond the croc.

Monday, July 21 2014

Private provider expansion in the international student sector continues, with 15% of higher education international students and 85% of international  VET students choosing private providers. 

International students are a well established and significant asset for the eastern states (it is Victoria’s largest export industry and has been for years well prior to the demise of GM and Ford) and ranked about fifth nationally behind iron ore, coal and gold. Tourism tends to rank about the same but boosted no doubt by some 400 000 international students, not to mention other visa holders also come here to do short courses, whose air fares and accommodation spending are deemed as tourism revenue, not educational.  So if we add a few more billion to the $16 billion that makes its way into our economy and keeps about 120 000 locals employed we have a remarkable industry to build on.

Delegates at ACPETs recent Towards 2030 – a Vision for Developing Northern Australia Symposium debated many points for implementation or reform, with one recommendation being to improve the Territories standing as a destination of choice for international students. With our proximity to Asia, a stable national political environment and a Territory government committed to forging stronger links with our neighbours increasing the numbers of international students is a no brainer.

Some will argue that we have left it too late, or that the students want the experience of the big southern cities and that Darwin in particular is too expensive. These perceptions cannot go unchallenged and it is heartening that the Territory is in the process of establishing an International Education and Training Hub with a view to raise the profile  of the NT and international students.

This of course will have a flow on effect to domestic students as they are exposed to a wider cohort of education providers and related opportunities.  Internationals students do not study in isolation and one of the main reason they do come to Australia is to immerse in the local culture and of course increase their English language proficiency. 

The NT currently has about 1300 international students (960 odd at CDU, 80 at Navitas doing ELICOS and 170 doing VET at either CDU or a private provider). In the VET space, the majority are with private providers with CDU having around 75 students.

Given that this total represents around 0.25% of the total of international students in Australia of around 385 000 me thinks there is room for improvement.

Nationally, inbound international students are on the increase and while I love the Irish accent around the worksites in the Terriory (not to mention my favoutite bars) , it would be in the best interest of the NT for more students both domestic and international to both study and then work here.

Maybe a bit of if we build it, they will come.  Time to think outside the croc.


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