The South Australian government has announced plans to double the number of international students heading for university in the region, hoping to boost its annual international student intake up to 64,500.

The state’s newly released International Student Action Plan has been announced with no set time limit, but Martin Hamilton-Smith, the region’s Investment and Trade Minister, described it as an “aspirational” target that should be met “as soon as practicable”.

South Australia currently hosts 32,089 foreign students at its regional institutions, which amounts to five percent of Australia’s total market share. The government’s previous ambition was to have 35,500 students enrolled at regional universities by 2017.

“We ought to think big not small…and be punching above our weight,” said Hamilton-Smith.

“I’ve called this an action plan rather than a strategy for a good reason because we [the Government] have a lot of strategies but I want action [on attracting more students].”

The Minister claimed other sector representatives believed he should take charge of the campaign because international education is one of Australia’s largest exports.

“Educators know what to do because they are terrific at education,” notes Hamilton-Smith, adding: “[but] if we better use the resources of Government we will get better outcomes.”

The plan also discusses aims to grow the sector’s state contribution, which currently provides over AU$1.1 billion for the South Australian economy.

If the new target is achieved, the region could benefit from as many as 8,400 additional job roles. Access Economics estimates that almost one full-time job is created for every three international students.

“International education deserves its position as a key economic priority,” continued Hamilton-Smith.

“The contribution of international students extends beyond the purely financial benefits of expenditure on education, but also has indirect benefits with spend in retail, accommodation and tourism.”

The plan’s primary aims include:

  • Opening an office in Vietnam where staff can be stationed overseas, with plans for other countries to be targeted later on.

  • Launching a pilot programme to link students with local businesses so they can take advantage of work and internship opportunities, and establishing a campaign to educate regional businesses on the benefits of employing an international graduate.

  • Building the South Australian International Education Office under the State Development Department in order to monitor the sector and promote education as a key economic driver.

The plan also determines a number of potential initiatives that could further South Australia’s international opportunities long into the future. These schemes hope to make the region’s global marketing strategy much more effective through the diversification of markets, joint programmes and trade fairs.

If the blueprint is successful, South Australia could become the main regional competitor for the country’s Eastern states, which currently hosts the largest international education market with places like New South Wales and Victoria claiming a massive share of Australia’s total international student cohort.

Image via Flickr.

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