International education ‘could bring NT $150m’


Professor Rolf Gerritsen: student growth in the past two years has been dramatic.

Professor Rolf Gerritsen: student growth in the past two years has been dramatic.

A Charles Darwin University academic has calculated that the Territory’s international education exports could triple to $150 million a year within a decade.

Northern Institute political economist Professor Rolf Gerritsen said this would see international education rise to fifth on the list of export earners for the NT, up from its current 10th placing.

“The international education sector is a promising industry for the NT and will grow in importance, both absolutely and relative to other export industries,” Professor Gerritsen said.

“It has the added advantage of growing in a stable and planned manner that it is not subject to the booms and busts or peaks and troughs of other industries.”

Professor Gerritsen made the claim in the context of a debate about the role of universities, such as CDU, in the economic development of their regions. The argument is contained in a paper to be published in the Australasian Journal of Regional Studies.

He said growth in higher education and intensive English student numbers had been dramatic in the past two years.

“A growth rate of about 30 per cent was facilitated in part by a large expansion of student accommodation and the fact that CDU had opened centres in Sydney and Melbourne.

“A more realistic 10 per cent per annum growth rate would be sufficient to triple the international student cohort to about 4500 by 2024.

“As an export earner, that would place it behind the natural gas, base metal, tourism and live animal export industries in fifth place, which would more closely reflect the national position, where international education is the largest service sector export.

“But achieving the export income target is as much about where the numbers increase. If tripling the economic impact in the NT of international education is the target, then expansion would need to be concentrated in Darwin.

“If it occurred interstate, the NT economy would benefit only by a proportion of the students’ fees paid to CDU.”

Professor Gerritsen said most of CDU’s international students came from the Philippines, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam; countries that have education institutions unlikely to challenge Australia for the international student market any time soon.

“The international education export sector already creates employment in a variety of industries, principally for service providers and local retailers.

“If the students were in Sydney or Melbourne there would be no retail multipliers from their expenditure in Darwin.

“It creates more than 500 (full-time equivalent) jobs in Darwin’s economy, so it is an increasingly important contributor to the NT regional economy.”

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