How much are international students worth to Australia's economy today?
They bring billions to the economy, as well as creating jobs and supporting local businesses. Source: Shutterstock

International students make a significant contribution to the Australian economy each year.

Last year, however, they broke the record. A whopping AU$32.2 billion (US$24.7 billion) was generated from the country’s international education sector, Xinhua reported.

That’s a 22 percent increase from the year before, and the strongest annual growth since 2008, according to the latest international trade data, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) last week.

“Over the past decade, Australia’s world-class universities have added chapter after chapter to our international education success story. It’s in the interests of all Australians that this continues. That’s why we need to keep investing in the quality that brings students to our shores,” Catriona Jackson, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Universities Australia said in a media release.

“The income that Australia generates from educating international students directly supports jobs, wages and living standards across our country – but it’s worth so much more than dollars and cents.”

International students spent most on tuition fees and living expenses. Source: Shuterstock

Education-related personal expenses – such as tuition fees and living costs – rack up the most in that billion-dollar figure, making up for AU$31.6 billion (US$24.24 billion).

International education is Australia’s third-largest export, behind iron and ore. China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam send the most students there, where nearly half (44.7 percent) of the total international student cohort enrol in Business Management while a notable percentage (11.8 percent) enrols in Engineering, according to a report by World Atlas.

Jackson traces Australia’s popularity among international students to the country’s “openness to the world and the outstanding quality of its university education and research”.

“International students are drawn to Australia because they know they’ll get a world-class education, global alumni networks, a great student experience and lifelong friendships with our country.”

Though they contribute significantly to the economy, employment opportunities and potential residential permits for them suffered setbacks last year. The popular 457 visa program, which allowed skilled foreigners to work in Australia for up to four years, has been replaced with a stricter Temporary Skill Shortage visa.

The new Subclass 482 visa allows businesses to employ skilled overseas workers if they can’t find workers with the required skills in Australia, though visa applicants must prove work experience, obtain a positive skill assessment as well as pass tightened English language requirements for the longer duration visa. It came into effect on March 18 this year.

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