Australia’s top universities expect student enrolments’ and revenues to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2025, bolstering the economy’s prospects at a time when rising interest rates and inflation cloud the outlook.
The resurgence will be driven by China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia, senior executives at the nation’s biggest universities told a parliamentary hearing in Sydney Thursday. They’re boosting investment to attract students by increasing the number of offshore campuses and by providing additional scholarships.
The hearing was part of an inquiry into Australia’s top services exports — education and tourism — to gain insights into how the government can support these crucial sectors. Education exports totalled A$20.8 billion ($14 billion) in 2021/22 after plunging 45% from pre-Covid levels. The industry currently accounts for 0.9% of Australia’s GDP, down from 1.9% before the pandemic.
A rebound in education exports is likely to add 0.4 percentage points to gross domestic product over the next couple of years, said Madeline Dunk, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. That would be a welcome boost at a time when rapid policy tightening raises the risk of an Australian recession.
More than 28,000 Chinese student visa holders arrived in Australia in the first three weeks of February, approximately 44% of the 63,000 visa holders outside of the country, Dunk said. She’s predicting the number to increase further in the months ahead, adding to labour supply and general domestic demand.
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