Australia has topped the US and Britain as the most expensive country in the world for foreign students, an international report has found.
But the falling currency and improved visa processes could soon see a resurgence in numbers.
The report comes amid concern among education groups that Australia is losing its competitive edge in attracting international students. They want the next government to review Australia’s visa system and ”aggressively promote” Australian education overseas.
The average cost of university fees and living expenses in Australia was $US38,000 ($41,700) a year for international students, HSBC research found. In the US, costs were $US35,000 a year while students in Britain paid $US30,000.
The total number of international students enrolled in Australia has fallen almost 20 per cent since the peak of 472,214 in 2010, data from federal government agency Australian Education International showed.
”While Australia has continued to enjoy higher economic growth than other Western markets over the past five years, this has also led to a higher Australian dollar, which has placed a strain on the price competitiveness of our export sectors, including education,” HSBC’s head of retail banking and wealth management in Australia Graham Heunis said.
International Education Association of Australia executive director Phil Honeywood said Australia had one of the ”most expensive, slow and inflexible” visa systems in the world. International education returned $15 billion a year to the economy and employed more than 100,000 people, he said.
But the sector lacked a ”strong government champion” and support offered to other industries, including tourism, mining and manufacturing.
The education groups, which include representatives from the TAFE and private sectors, said public and private education providers were burdened with a ”multitude of costs associated with regulation”.
The Council of International Students Australia’s immediate past president, Aleem Nizari, said working visas for foreign students who had finished their degrees remained a pressing issue. He said many employers were also confused about the post-study work visa. The lack of clarity made it difficult for graduates to gain work experience before returning home.