WA’s International student numbers at colleges and training institutes plunge
New figures on the number of applications to study in Western Australia show a huge decrease, resulting in 23% reduction in June compared to the previous year. Numbers have been decreasing over the past few months, with colleges and training institutions suffering the biggest loss in numbers. WA’s university sector have not had any major impacts so far.
WAPETIA’s chair Malcolm Baigent said these schools are the “canary in the coalmine” for the international education sector, which the organisation has measured as having a value of $1.39 billion to the local economy, while generating more than eight thousand jobs.
“What’s driving this is changes to the student visa system, particularly the tightening up of rules over English entry,” he said.
“It’s a very complex system, but the federal government moved to simplify the visa process by introducing a three level classification system. But in practise it’s made it more difficult for students to apply especially from key student recruitment markets.
“Compare that to places like Canada where it’s essentially an open door and Australia is falling behind, and students and parents are making their decisions about where to study at an earlier age, so we are well into the wave of experiencing the impact and decline in the WA market and there’s potentially more to come.”
Some of the issues that have lead to the number decrease include Premier Mark McGowan’s decision to remove Perth from the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme which previously classed Perth as a regional centre, making it easier for people from overseas to obtain a work visa and it was a major factor attracting overseas students to choose Perth as their study destination. Mr Baigant agreed the removal of the RSMS is a factor, but believes there are other factors.
“Students look at job prospects and visa issues for the period after they study when they make up their minds, and WA’s economy is slumping, so the word out is that it’s harder to find work, so that’s not helping,” he said.
“Combine that with the difficulty of getting a visa and acceptance into a school under the new rules and it’s no wonder.”
On a positive note, there is constructive work that is currently being undertaken by the McGowan Government with the shift of responsibility for International Education to the new Department of JTSI, the development of an International Education Strategy which underway, and how the WA Universities are wanting to work together to help grow the international education sector in WA (which is a first).
To demonstrative support to the WA International Education Industry, McGowan Government has invited members of WAPETIA to attend a Mission to China to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the sister state relationship with Zhejiang Province in China. Majority of the members have accepted the initiation. The visit will take place end of October. This concerted effort will help to raise WA’ profile as a tourist and education destination for Chinese market.