China has appealed to Australia to help educate 1 million of its citizens.
Brendan Nelson, the Federal Education Minister, said that on a recent visit to Beijing, China's Education Minister, Zhou Ji, noted that there were about 250 million Chinese students. Dr Nelson said: "Over the longer term, China would like to see Australia help educate about 1 million of those in China. The potential for growth is significant. There are about 1 million students internationally looking for education in English-speaking countries. It is envisaged that by 2025 there will be at least 8 million."
The Chinese Government was moving quickly to establish world-class universities, Dr Nelson said. But it needed mutual recognition and collaborative arrangements with Australia's world-class universities. "We need to develop programmes where there is mutual recognition and joint offering of degree programmes, not only with some of those Chinese universities but others throughout the world."
At the launch of a report on Australia's education export industry with Alexander Downer, the Foreign Minister, Dr Nelson said China was Australia's leading source country for international student enrolments.
This year, 72,000 Chinese were enrolled on courses in all Australian education sectors, and an estimated 30,000 were studying Australian programmes in China.
Mr Downer said: "There is somewhere in the vicinity of 700,000 people around Asia who, over the past 55 years, have been educated in Australia. That is an enormous figure."
The departmental report, Education without Borders: International Trade in Education , highlights the key role Australia is playing in the global education market. It notes that education is Australia's fourth largest export industry. In 2004, international enrolments made up 15 per cent of total revenues for Australian universities and 18 per cent of total student enrolments.
The report says that over the medium term, the demand for higher education will continue to outstrip the ability of many Asian countries to provide it.
The demand for more tertiary-level places in Asia - and for higher quality education and greater choice of studies - has also created momentum for the large-scale reform and restructuring of higher education under way in several economies, the report adds.
Official attitudes to private education in China and Southeast Asia are changing. Governments throughout the region increasingly value private higher education because it alleviates pressure on publicly funded higher education and delivers subjects that are not yet taught widely or to a high standard in local universities.
"The participation of foreign universities in domestic higher education presents unprecedented opportunities to Australian institutions that are willing to be proactive in the delivery of courses in students' home countries," the report says.