IF it wasn't already worried, the international education export sector should be, with a $4billion contraction of the market expected within just two years if new student visa restrictions are not relaxed.
The tougher visa arrangements have contributed to a perfect storm that has also included a strengthening dollar, the GFC and increased competition from across the world.
National chair of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training Kay Ganley last week delivered the sobering message at a local meeting of Suned, the Coast organisation that promotes local education and training providers globally.
“I talked about the positive contribution international education can make to Australian society, not just to the economy, although it is our third largest export,” she said.
“It is really a great story...and it has been good for many years. More than 500,000 people from 190 countries study in Australia.
“But it will decline if there is no intervention, so we are calling on the government to work with the industry to protect the market.
“They need to look at visa processing and do more marketing in countries where there are students who want to study in Australia.
“Every region is really suffering from a downturn and we are working with the government so that the Sunshine Coast and other regions will not continue to feel the impact.
“The Sunshine Coast has so much more to offer because it has the tourism, the natural environment, agriculture...the Sunshine Coast can offer overseas students the dream they have of Australia.”
Mrs Ganley said Australia was also losing market share to competitor countries like the UK, Canada and some Asian nations, but that would be addressed with Austrade recently taking over the marketing duties thanks to a recent government department move.
And she said local operators could deal with the temporary visa impact by branching out into offering working holidays, which require a different visa and can also contain short courses.
“We believe there will be some intervention from the government (on the visa issue), and we will resume our place as an ideal place for international education,” she said.
“Students come to the Coast because of the welcoming nature and Australian lifestyle, but not just because of that, also because they've got excellent job opportunities while they are studying, particularly in the hospitality and tourism industries.”
She said Australian educational qualifications were highly regarded around the world and future growth will come from Australian institutions offering those qualifications off-shore in the Asia Pacific region.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.