Posted by: Hendra Siry | 20 January, 2009

Boom in Canberra’s overseas enrolments

International student enrolments in the ACT have shot up this year, as the global economic crisis makes Canberra a more financially competitive city to obtain a degree.

The University of Canberra has accepted 66 per cent more international students so far this year than it had at the same time last year, and vice-chancellor Professor Stephen Parker says the figures strengthen international education’s place as the ACT’s second-top export after government services.

The Australian National University has recorded a 30 per cent increase in overseas undergraduate applications and a 40 per cent increase in postgraduate students.

The Canberra Institute of Technology expects a 20 per cent increase in overseas student enrolments.

Some interstate metropolitan universities have reportedly experienced a higher than usual rate of deferrals and are concerned the sector may be experiencing the start of a downturn.

International education is Australia’s third-largest export industry, worth more than $14billion a year.

But the ACT is likely to draw hundreds of new full-fee-paying international students this year, the only impediment being a lack of accommodation.

Access Economics’s latest Business Outlook suggests the weaker Australian dollar will ”notably improve the competitiveness of Australian tertiary education on the international stage” this year. Professor Parker said a range of factors were at play, including the weaker dollar as well as the UC’s new courses and a successful marketing drive.

He said second semester acceptances were also up 46 per cent.

”This is relevant because if international students were deferring, you would expect to see semester two rising by more than semester one, but that isn’t the case,” he said.

”There is absolutely no evidence the global crisis is leading to a softening of enrolments, if anything it is the opposite.” He said the key issue was student accommodation.

The UC and the ANU have opened more on-campus housing this year.”We can’t build it fast enough,” Professor Parker said.

While acceptances were up by 66 per cent, he warned the ACT accommodation crisis might lead to ”a good number of students going elsewhere because they can’t find anywhere to live in Canberra”.

He said this could reduce the overseas intake to a 25 per cent increase on last year’s number.

This would still mean an estimated 500-plus international students starting at the UC this year, compared with 400 last year, with international students comprising 12 per cent of enrolments.

ANU acting vice-chancellor Professor Lawrence Cram said there was strong international demand for the university this year, but it was ”a little too early for us to say for sure how those applications will translate to acceptances”.

Australian universities would benefit from the weakening dollar and the fact Australia was a ”safe place to live”.


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