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Student drop could hit Aus economy: Report

In the backdrop of new immigration rules for overseas students, Australia could lose $2.9 billion of its national export income as over 125,000 fewer students are expected to come in the next 12 months.

world Updated: Jun 07, 2010 13:47 IST

In the backdrop of new immigration rules for overseas students, Australia could lose $2.9 billion of its national export income as over 125,000 fewer students are expected to come in the next 12 months.

More than 125,000 fewer international students are expected to come in the next 12 months costing over 31,000 jobs nationwide, according to The Age report.

Confidential Immigration Department figures revealed new visa applications suggesting that Victoria, the state that is most reliant on foreign students, will be hardest hit with 40,250 fewer students in the next year.

Modelling by Access Economics also suggested that this will cost 10,100 jobs in Victoria and 1.17 billion Australian dollars loss in the state's export income, more than a quarter of the total value of the state's biggest export industry.

Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) believed export income nationally will lose 3.6 billion Australian dollars (USD 2.9) from the fall in student numbers.

"We've been talking about it for a while, but it's here now," ACPET head Andrew Smith said.

Last month, Immigration Minister Chris Evans had cut down a number of popular courses, such as hairdressing and cookery, out of the Skilled Occupations List, which was packaged by vocational colleges with permanent residency to woo students.

Before the changes were announced, international education was a 17 billion Australian dollar industry nationally, and brought 4 billion Australian dollars every year into Victoria.

"It's affected the entire international education market. India has dropped significantly, there's been a slowdown from China and drops from other key markets, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea," Smith said.

His organisation, which represents private colleges, has warned that big and reputable schools are already feeling the pinch.

"We've got a lot of good genuine students and businesses being hurt," he said.

Smith said these new tough measures had increased the level of uncertainty for applicants. Potential students were responding by applying to Canada, Britain or the United States instead.

"People have lost faith in the Australian market," Smith said.

A spokeswoman for Senator Evans did not respond to questions about the economic impact of the changes, but she said genuine international students were still welcome.

However, the immigration program "cannot be determined by the courses studied by international students".

State Education Minister Bronwyn Pike would also not be drawn on the economic impact to Victoria, saying only that "we are closely monitoring the impacts".

Tony Fritsche, whose Mint Group provides job-ready candidates for a number of industries, said the shortage of new immigrants would soon filter through to a shortage of labour.

The figures also showed a 47 per cent drop in the number of visa applications from India alone in the nine months to the end of March.