Like in many other states, international education is a vital part of the South Australian economy.

A new plan for that state entitled: “International education 2030 Live, learn stay” has just been released.

International education’s contribution in South Australia

In the SA Minister for Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment’s foreword to the new plan he points out that:

“in 2018 nearly 38,000 international student enrolments contributed approximately $1.8 billion to our local economy supporting almost 12,500 jobs.”

It is the state’s “largest services export and second largest general export following wine.” In addition, these international students drive new investment in purpose-built accommodation construction and other services. They help boost South Australia’s retail, hospitality and tourism sectors.

South Australia sees itself as welcoming, affordable and safe. It offers international students “an enviable lifestyle with a vibrant mix of arts, culture and restaurants.” Importantly, these students also enrich Adelaide’s culture.

Finally, and maybe unlike some other states, they are seen as a source of potential population growth. South Australia’s net interstate migration is traditionally negative, but “its population growth has been driven by net overseas migration more than any other jurisdiction.” What the state is looking for is work ready, career ready graduates to become an active part of South Australia’s economic transition.

Growing SA’s population

The plan suggests that:

“International education could be a significant driver of population growth in South Australia and assist in balancing [its] ageing population status through the attraction of younger people.”

And because of its size and nature the state has favourable visa policy settings in comparison with a number of the eastern states, particularly in terms of accessing either a General Skilled Migration visas or a Supporting Innovation in South Australia visa. Both offer a better chance of access to permanent residency.

How many are there and where do their international students come from?

Student numbers have grown steadily from around 31,000 in 2014 to 38,000 in 2018. Like most other states, the big markets are China and India which, together, comprise 55% of the international students coming to the state.

What does the plan propose?

Promoting South Australia as a study destination

The plan proposes that approaches to increase the number of international students coming to South Australia occur in a coordinated way. Destination marketing strategies will aim to provide compelling reasons for studying in south Australia by combining “the delivery of great on-shore experience and clear migration pathways”.

A recent article in the Australian by David Penberty on 14 September talked about the ‘pull factor’ of South Australia, with relatively cheap housing and an enviable lifestyle. While the article focuses the pull for those living and working interstate to, or back to, South Australia, it did point out that the eastern states are “slamming the shutters and declaring their states full”. South Australia is not doing that. Its international education policy seeks “alignment with South Australia’s skills needs and population policy” by building stronger connections with local industries and aligning curricula and course content to develop skills in digital literacy, leadership and management and entrepreneurship. This will:

“allow South Australian graduates to be successful in their global careers and support the growth of our state’s leading industries by supplying a pipeline of talent.”

So, where will the focus be?

VET education enrolments are expected to be South Australia’s fastest growing sub-sector. It also sees growing markets in a few source countries over and above the ‘traditional ones’ of China, India, Hong Kong and Vietnam. The plan predicts that:

“The four fastest growth markets for South Australia are forecast to be Kenya, Taiwan, Brazil and Cambodia.”

Planned enablers for growth will include a new International Student Hub to both provide resources for international students and facilitate collaboration between industry, entrepreneurs and students. The SA government also will establish an International Centre of Culinary Excellence, Hospitality and Tourism at the site of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital in the CBD. Finally, it proposes increasing on-shore and off-shore marketing to target markets “through an increase in the number of brand ambassadors and increasing tourism to South Australia.”