Oz could lose $70 mn as 20 pct less Indians enrol

Aus Students

Australia's international student sector, the third largest export earner, is forecast to see a 20 per cent drop in Indian students in 2010, costing $69.7 million, after a series of attacks on Indians students in 2009.

A study by The Tourism Forecasting Committee released on Wednesday found that while international tourism numbers were expected to grow by 4.3 per cent in 2010, there would be a significant decline in international student arrivals.

It forecast 4,000 fewer Indian students, a fall of 21 per cent compared with a 35 percent rise in 2009.

"The resultant loss in economic value to Australia could be as high as A$78 million in 2010 if these enrolments are not filled by other international students," a statement by the Tourism Forecasting Committee said.

The study attributed the fall in Indian student numbers to a spate of attacks on Indian students that cast a shadow over the Australian education industry in mid-2009.

The attacks in Melbourne and Sydney, which police blamed on opportunistic criminals, escalated into a diplomatic issue between Australia and India after some Indian students and Indian media labelled the attacks as racist.

Australia's international student sector is the country's third largest export earner, behind coal and iron ore, totalling A$13 billion ($10 billion) in 2007-08.

In 2009, there were more than 70,000 Indians studying in Australia. Australia is a major destination for Indian students studying abroad, who recognise the cost competitiveness of Australian education services.

Enrolments of Indian students in Australia had increased at an average annual rate of around 41 per cent since 2002.

"What we're saying is that based on consideration of visa applications there's a 20 per cent hit," chairman of The Tourism Forecasting Committee, Bernard Salt, told local radio.

"This is a segment that has grown strongly throughout this decade but the downturn is expected in response to concerns that the Indian community have had about safety," said Salt.

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