While the mining and resources sector continues to grab headlines across Australia, there is no doubt that the education system is also proving to be a major magnet for overseas students. The number of overseas students coming to Australia has been constantly growing over the last decade and recent visa changes by the Australian government seem certain to increase this pace. So, why is Australia so popular with overseas students?
Investment in education
At a very early stage the Australian government realised that education was one of the major attractions for the country, together with the culture and economy. Literally hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested into the education system, creating a network of partnerships with countries around the world. The Australian government has been very "cute" in aligning itself with some of the brightest and most capable students in the world and offering them a relatively clear path to education in Australia.
There are all kinds of courses, all kinds of subjects and indeed the government has also put in place a number of systems awarding qualifying overseas students various grants and financial assistance with their costs. This long-term investment in the education system is most certainly beginning to pay dividends with the number of skilled workers coming out of the Australian education system increasing year-on-year.
Is it the culture?
While the UK is routinely mentioned as one of the more multicultural societies of the world, there is no doubt that Australia is also vying for this position. This is a country which has been based upon immigration, skilled workers, families from around the world and more recently major investment by international companies. As a consequence the multicultural society we now call Australia has in many ways been developing for well over 100 years and many people believe it is a very interesting and thought provoking culture.
While some overseas students have been reporting sporadic instances of alleged racism over the last couple of years, it is unclear whether this is specifically targeted towards certain ethnic minorities or indeed fallout from the worldwide economic downturn. Whatever the truth, the government has acted fairly quickly to stamp down upon this potential bonfire of problems and it does seem to have calmed down over the last few months.Quote from AustraliaForum.com : "As the number of overseas students studying in Australia continues to grow, many will be pleased to learn there are a number of scholarship programs for international students. These scholarship programs are offered in tandem with the Australian government, various education institutions, international charities and other organisations."
The Australian economy
If you look at countries such as the UK and the US, you will see a whole host of students leaving university with some of the best grades available, some the best experience money can buy but ultimately where are the jobs?
The fact is that at this moment in time there is still a lack of skilled workers in certain areas of the Australian economy, much of which would be made up by students in the future. Even though the mining and resources sector has obviously assisted in keeping the Australian economy above the waterline, in direct comparison to the likes of the US, UK and Europe, there is more to the Australian economy than just mining.
As with the education system, the Australian government has been investing in an array of technology, the pharmaceuticals industry and indeed the introduction of a $30 billion plus broadband network revamp by the government has gone down well. This is a government which is more proactive than reactive, forward-looking than backward looking and a government which is ultimately beginning to reap the rewards of seeds sown many years ago.
The array of overseas student visas now available makes it even simpler for genuine students to make the journey from their homeland to Australia. The government is also very keen for those who study in Australia to eventually have live in Australia and use the skills and experiences they have learnt to better the Australian economy. This long-term, slow burn investment in the economy is already beginning to pay dividends and the influx of overseas students expected this year will be a record.
As they say, the figures speak for themselves!