‘Plan for a plan’ panned as McGowan pitches WA to foreign students
The WA government will spend $2 million on a new international education strategy and expand its graduate migration scheme in an attempt to turn around a collapse in the numbers of foreign students coming to the state.
Premier Mark McGowan said the government would focus on marketing WA as an “international education destination” while adding dozens of jobs to the skilled migration list to allow more foreign students with degrees to stay in WA.
But Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said the 32-page strategy lacked the funding and vision to increase the state’s share of the lucrative international student market and labelled the document a “$2 million plan for a plan”.
In August the government came under fire when the federal Department of Education revealed there were 8.2 per cent fewer overseas students commencing studies this year in WA, the only state to record a decline.
“Our new strategy sends a message to the world we are open for business as a world-class international education destination,” Mr McGowan said.
“We welcome international students, their families and friends.
“Government and industry are now working together on a range of actions — guided by the strategy — to put Perth on the map as an education destination.”
Dr Nahan said the strategy lacked detail and had no specific policy commitments that would translate into more students.
“Committing $2 million over five years is insufficient from the McGowan government, particularly when there is a significant return on investment for every student that comes to WA to study,” he said.
“The McGowan government is putting as much money into attracting international students as they are towards a 25-metre indoor pool and clubrooms in the marginal seat of Collie.
“That shows the regard the McGowan government has for attracting international students and the value they bring to the economy.”
Graduates must study in WA for two years to be eligible for the migration scheme, which contains some jobs available only to students qualifying with master’s and doctorate degrees.
But Education Minister Sue Ellery said the strategy would boost numbers.
“Perth offers the truly authentic Australian education experience, and I am confident the state’s investment in international education and the new International Education Strategy will provide a foundation for significant growth in the future,” she said.
The 2018 graduate migration occupation list includes spots for foreign graduates in professions such as teaching, medicine and law, but also less common jobs such as “Caravan Park and Camping Ground Manager” and “Dance Teacher”.
After coming to government in 2017, Mr McGowan reduced the number of occupations on the migration list from 178 to 18, according to the opposition.
Opposition tourism spokeswoman Libby Mettam the government was sending a message to international students to bypass Perth.
“The McGowan Government’s decision to drastically reduce the WA skilled migration list has cost the WA economy hundreds of millions of dollars in lost student enrolments and associated tourist visits,” she said.
“Every other state has been capitalising on the $20 billion international student industry, while the McGowan Government has spent the past 18 months undermining it in WA.”