International research students studying at universities in Canberra, Australia, will no longer have to pay state school fees for their children, it has been announced.

Currently, many expats in Australia face school fees of up to $12,000 per child for state-provided education with decisions made on a state-by-state basis. Research students, because they are older, often have children but low earnings.

schoolsOZACT chief minister Andrew Barr said the fees will be waived for overseas students with children who are undertaking research at the Australian National University, Canberra University and the UNSW Canberra.

He explained that it is part of a wider policy to attract more international students to the state and he is aware that the cost of school for students with children can make the difference between moving to Australia or not.

Barr wants to boost Canberra as a higher education destination globally and is aware that other states, such as New South Wales, waive fees for the children of international research students in public schools.

He pointed out that Canberra's education sector is one of the city's biggest employers with one out of every nine people either studying in or employed by a university institution, the highest rate of study and employment anywhere in Australia.

'This measure will create new jobs and boost economic activity in the sector. School fees have acted as a disincentive for this group to choose Canberra as the place to study and further their research careers,' said Barr.

'Although the number of higher degree by research students studying in Canberra is relatively small, they are an important group given the research expertise and specialisation they bring to the territory and the benefits that flow from this,' he added.

The Australian government wants to attract more international students to study at Australian universities and has produced a strategy to increase numbers between now and 2025 and more than double numbers within a decade.

The announcement has been welcomed by universities in Canberra. 'It will help us attract and retain some of the world's best young researchers who will live and study in Canberra and contribute to Australia's research excellence,' said Australian National University vice chancellor Ian Young.

UNSW vice chancellor Michael Frater pointed out that there is significant competition in recruiting internationally. 'This initiative is a critical step in promoting the ACT as a competitive destination,' he added.