Chinese and Indian students might choose the US or Britain over Australia

November 14th, 2007 - 10:17 am ICT by admin  
Commentators said more students from China and India might begin to choose the US, with its weak currency, or Britain over Australia.

According to commentator Simon Marginson, the Australian Government may have to step in to shore up second-tier universities, which are “losing sleep” over the currency crunch.

These universities presently feel deprived of foreign student income. With markets expecting an increase in official interest rates today, and sustained upward pressure on the Australian dollar, the 9.5 billion dollar education export industry is facing an unprecedented challenge on price competitiveness.

Professor Marginson holds a chair in higher education at the University of Melbourne.

Next month senior university managers will meet officials from the Department of Education, Science and Training to talk about risks in the export market. The currency would be on the agenda, according to Stephen Martin, pro vice-chancellor (international) at Victoria University, who chairs the group of managers responsible for offshore markets.

The combination of deep dependence on foreign student revenue and a historically high currency is new for the sector.

US-based consultant Daniel Guhr, who believed second-tier institutions offering a “commoditised, cost-driven product” would be hardest hit, said Australia had to get its marketing right.

“You can’t compete on low cost because there are always countries that will outbid you on cost, you have to compete on quality, brand and outcome,” said Dr Guhr, of the Illuminate Consulting Group.

He suggested that scholarships and FEE-HELP for international students would promote quality and attract talent.

Professor Marginson said scholarships for overseas postgraduate students would “take the edge off” Australia’s reputation for being “cost and quantity driven”.

Hong-Kong based consultant Alan Olsen said discounting was not the thing to do.

“Reducing the fees would send the wrong message,” said Mr Olsen, director of Strategy Policy and Research in Education. is research suggested the currency effect would take 18 months to make itself

But several commentators said the currency effect should not be overstated since education exports had enjoyed strong growth during the past few years despite the steadily rising Australian dollar. (ANI)

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