OPINION: Ramifications of Sending International Students to Centres Other than Sydney will be Dire

Overcrowding and the intake of migrants have been popular topics among our politicians and decision makers lately and while it is an important discussion to have, it is critical the benefits of migration are thoroughly assessed before wrong decisions are made.

The suggestion to send international students to regional towns and smaller cities as a strategy to address overcrowding in our major cities should be hosed down before it is captured by the populism that seems to define much of public policy.

Sydney is a world-leading centre of excellence in international education with more than 200,000 international students choosing Sydney and NSW as the place in which to study. International education is NSW’s largest services export, contributing $11.3 billion in export revenue last year, and supporting more than 46,000 jobs in the state. 

Beyond their economic contribution, international students give back to our communities and classrooms in myriad ways, including through volunteering, and fostering cross-cultural understanding and mutual respect.

The profiles of the 2018 NSW International Student Awards finalists showcase how these young people are adding to our society.

Most international students return to their country of origin but remain amongst our greatest ambassadors, helping to promote Sydney, NSW and Australia and improving our diplomatic, trade and research ties.

Indonesia’s former Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa is often cited as an example of an Australian university alumnus who helped improve the bilateral relationship. 

Regional universities have an important role to play in international education but the ramifications of a policy of sending international students to centres other than Sydney will be dire. 

Part of Sydney’s success as a global city is built off the reputation of our leading local universities, and beyond the large universities, virtually every university in Australia has opened a campus in Sydney to target the international student market. Sending students beyond Sydney will have enormous economic impact on the Sydney commercial and residential market, that is anything but positive.

For students who know only large city life and have heard of Sydney but nowhere beyond, imagining that we can attract the same number of students, find them accommodation and places in courses in regional universities without disrupting a thriving and successful market is beyond reality.

Our regional areas also have significant strengths. Smaller communities offer students the chance to experience local Australian culture and build local connections more easily. Many of our regional universities are leaders in fields like agricultural sciences that attract global talent but the courses that bring students to Sydney are not necessarily the strengths of the regional universities.

International education is our largest services export. At a time when Australia is undergoing a structural change away from good-producing towards a more services-oriented economy, we should be trying to grow the sector, not curb it.

This is a golden egg for Sydney and Australia, and we can’t afford to crack it.


Patricia Forsythe

Executive Director

Patricia represents the Chamber on the City of Sydney Retail Advisory Panel and the Sydney Airport Planning Coordination Forum. Patricia has represented the Chamber on a number of NSW government committees including the Light Rail Delivery Phase Roundtable, Sydney’s Competitive Positioning Steering Committee and the Retail Expert Advisory Committee for the Department of Planning and the Environment.