Strong future ahead for Adelaide’s international education sector

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced his national migration plan to ease the pressure on capital cities in the eastern states and support growth in the regions. StudyAdelaide CEO Karyn Kent explores how the changes could bring even more international students to study, live and work in South Australia and what this means for local businesses.

The outlook for Adelaide’s international education sector – and SA’s business community – has been boosted with the Australian Government’s release of its ‘Plan for Australia’s Future Population’.

As recently announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the plan features a range of measures to create better incentives to encourage new migrants to settle outside of Australia’s largest cities.

Included among these measures is an additional year in Australia for international students who have completed their studies at a regional campus of a higher education institution, lived in the region during their first post-study work visa and who wish to continue to live and work in the region.

The whole of SA, including Adelaide, is considered regional for migration purposes and the potential of that extra year will now be offered to existing and new international students in the state.

StudyAdelaide is a partnership between government and the education sector, promoting Adelaide to international students. We are delighted to see these changes and confident they will provide a significant additional incentive for even more international students to choose to study and live here.

It is great news for the SA economy given international education is our second largest export and was valued at $1.6 billion in 2017/18, with capacity to grow beyond the 38,000 international student enrolments we achieved in 2018.
It is also great news for SA businesses.

Students graduating with higher education qualifications can now work for a minimum of three years, giving local businesses extended access to their knowledge and skills which are in occupations of high demand, such as engineering, IT, commerce and health.

StudyAdelaide CEO Karyn Kent.

Many SA exporters, especially those in the wine sector (our largest export sector), have enjoyed great success employing international students and graduates.

International students deliver tangible benefits for these companies with their first-hand knowledge of target export markets, their language skills and their networks and contacts, to support and help deliver the export aspirations of our local businesses.

SA businesses can easily access these skills – the post-study visa (subclass 485) requires no employer sponsorship and international graduates are employed under the same conditions as an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

The Australian Government’s announcement builds on recent changes also announced by Immigration SA that benefit those international students who aspire to migrate, in recognition of the investment these students have made in an education here and the contribution they will make to the SA economy as a highly educated graduate. Many of these graduates go on to establish their own SA businesses, that in turn employ locals.

One of the founders of web and app developers PixelForce is originally from Hong Kong and now employs more than 25 people here in Adelaide. They developed the Sweat app for Adelaide’s fitness duo Kayla Itsines and Tobi Pearce, who were recently listed among Australia’s 250 richest people.

Nicho Teng from China studied at Glenunga International High School and Flinders University and has gone on to establish Haneco Lighting and Greaton, a property company that is developing the new Wirra Wirra five-star hotel and the Westin Hotel as part of the GPO redevelopment, which is set to open in 2022.

Deloitte Access Economics reported in 2018 that for every four international students in SA, one job is created.

These new jobs aren’t just limited to our education institutions who deliver Adelaide’s world-class education, they are spread throughout our economy.

In 2018 and 2019, four purpose-built student apartment buildings have been completed and another four are in the pipeline. Imagine the contribution to construction and ongoing operational jobs created by these alone.

Premier Steven Marshall has identified growing both international student numbers and our population as key priorities and, along with our members, StudyAdelaide looks forward to welcoming even more students here.

Together, these policies clearly add to SA’s significant appeal as a study destination for international students, alongside our world-class education institutions and vibrant, affordable lifestyle.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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International education one of SA’s top export earners

The value of international students to the South Australian economy continues to grow – last financial year generating $1.62 billion and positioning international education as one of the state’s top export earners.

Almost 38,000 international students were enrolled in SA universities, education institutions and schools in the 12 months to November last year, and with universities opening their lecture theatres for the new semester later this month, thousands more students are set to arrive.

Karyn Kent, CEO of StudyAdelaide, the main organisation marketing Adelaide as the learning city, says Adelaide has always had a solid reputation as an education city, but the number of enrolments and the value of the sector are on the rise.

She says international student enrolments have been climbing by about 6% since 2014, with the majority of students coming from China and Hong Kong, followed by India, Nepal, Malaysia, Korea and Kenya.

“The value of the sector has been growing by about 10% (each year),” she says. “It’s estimated by Deloitte that around 43% of that ($1.62 billion) is spent on education fees, and the other 57% is spent on living expenses, housing, food, entertainment and things like that.

“That’s the ongoing daily impact that international students are having on our economy. It’s certainly generated some big investments. We’re about to do some research with city businesses to try and get a feel for the retail sector in the CBD and whether they’re noticing it as well.”

Karyn says a large proportion of SA’s international students in the vocational and higher end education sectors study business, accounting and finance degrees, while engineering, health and IT are other main areas of study, followed by hospitality and education.

Adelaide’s three main universities, the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia and Flinders University, have various campuses across the city and regional SA. The University of Adelaide is the oldest, established in 1874.

Adelaide is home to dozens of other education institutions including TAFE SA and campuses of Carnegie Mellon University and Torrens University Australia.

So what makes Adelaide attractive to international students?

“Lifestyle is definitely one of the key benefits,” Karyn says. “International students can afford to live close to their campus here in Adelaide, we have a really diverse and welcoming environment and I think we give the impression that we’re a team and a family here.

“But if you look at other drivers of destination choice it’s ‘does the city have the course I want to study?’, ‘is it a nice place to live?’ and employability opportunities are all really important.”

SA is already home to a number of international student success stories, people who have gone on to stay in SA and pursue business ventures.

Web design and app development studio PixelForce was born from a university assignment that became one of SA’s fastest growing businesses. One of its most high profile clients is fitness guru Kayla Itsines, who tasked PixelForce with generating her Sweat app.

Another success story is Harbour Bottling, a wine bottling plant exporting up to 400 shipping containers of locally produced wine a year, mostly to China. Both these companies were established by international students who now call SA home.

It is unknown exactly how many international students end up calling SA home, but a 2018 report released by the Australian Treasury and Department of Home Affairs called Shaping a Nation estimated that 16% of international students in Australia eventually transitioned to permanent residency.

“The SA Premier (Steven Marshall) has been very upfront about migration as a way to address low population growth and international students are a big part of that story,” Karyn says.

“If we get the settings right, it makes it more attractive and easier for international students to stay.”

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway says the State Government has demonstrated its commitment to growing international student numbers by increasing StudyAdelaide funding to $2.5 million.

A Ministerial Advisory Committee for International Education has also been established, bringing together education institutions, peak bodies, government and private providers to develop a strategy to sustain further growth in the sector.

“International students make an enormous contribution to the state, not only economically, but also socially and culturally and become invaluable tourism ambassadors for SA among their friends and family back home,” Mr Ridgway says.

“Graduating international students become young professionals with a global outlook and we have seen countless examples of them joining or creating local businesses to help drive economic growth across industries in our state.”

Industry in focus: Trade and Investment

Throughout the months of January and February, the state’s trade and investment industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is in a prime position for trade and investment opportunities as we have a 24-hour connection to international markets and a prime reputation for our premium products and services.  Read more trade and investment stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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