Australian universities this year will ride on the promotion wagons of the Australian Tourist Commission to sell their wares around the world.
For the first time, the nation's big education exporters have forged an alliance with the government-funded ATC, which receives Aus$80 million (Pounds 31 million) a year to market Australia's sunshine and its beaches overseas. Now the commission will add university campuses to the list of attractions.
The commission will spend an extra Aus$150 million over the next three years on offshore promotion, exploiting the Sydney Olympics, the Centenary of Federation and the "End of the Millennium". Universities hope to benefit from the extra exposure these events are likely to create around the world.
More than 160,000 foreign students are expected to enrol in Australian education institutions this year. They will contribute Aus$3.3 billion to the national economy. Universities enrol more than 60,000 of the students and their fees add some Aus$800 million to institutional coffers.
Australian Education International - the government's education marketing arm - has written to universities, colleges, schools and private education providers that enrol foreign students to inform them of the new links with the tourist commission.
The letter advises that the AEI will shortly begin a marketing campaign, Study in Australia 2000, which will undergo a trial in Bangkok during an Australian education exhibition there in June. The campaign will then be extended to other countries after the trial has been evaluated.
Templates of the AEI advertisements will be made available to the institutions, into which they can insert their own pictures and text. The advertisements will carry the institution's logo and that of the tourist commission - a kangaroo silhouetted against the sun.
The overseas recruiting and promotional offshoot of the Australian Vice-chancellors' Committee, IDP Education Australia, is backing the AEI campaign. But the IDP will also continue its efforts to recruit foreign students and sell Australian university expertise abroad.
As part of an expanded marketing push, the IDP board has decided to allocate Aus$2 million to promote Australian education in South America. Its general manager, Bill Street, said two senior IDP officials were carrying out market surveys in South America. The IDP aims to attract up to 10,000 fee-paying students from the region over the next five years.
"We are investigating how we might establish representation either with our own people or by franchising," Mr Street said. He said the board would consider locating offices in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia.
Mr Street said the IDP had strengthened the education office in the Australian embassy in Washington to improve its capacity to recruit American students, especially those involved in the US Study Abroad programme.
In collaboration with the British Council, the IDP has appointed a full-time official to promote the International English Language Testing System across North America. The system is the second most widely used test system in the world for assessing foreign students' competence in English.
The system is one-third owned by the council, one-third by the IDP and one-third by Cambridge University. A number of prestigious US universities have adopted the test in assessing applications from foreign students, and this is seen as a big breakthrough.
Although the British Council has just begun a big student recruiting drive in Australia, Mr Street said the IDP supported a "genuine international student market" and favoured as much reciprocal movement between countries as possible.
"When there is a genuine two-way exchange of students between institutions in the different countries, rather than the massive one-way flow that tends to exist at present, then international education will have matured," he said.
Australia does not want the flow of students to Britain to be one way, so over the next 18 months the IDP will begin a campaign in the UK to encourage British students to study in Australia.