Perth and Gold Coast get international education priority status

‘Regional’ tag extended, after cities lobby for international education incentives

October 27, 2019
Gold Coast Queensland Australia
Source: iStock

Just three cities in Australia will be considered metropolitan locations for international study, after the federal government announced that it would redefine the country’s fourth and sixth largest urban areas as regional centres.

Perth and the Gold Coast will no longer be classified as major cities for migration purposes. The change, to apply from 16 November, means foreign students who enrol in the two centres will qualify for an extra year of post-study work rights.

Perth’s population of more than 2 million makes it considerably larger than Dublin or Helsinki and on par with greater Pittsburgh and Kansas City. The Gold Coast, in Queensland’s south-east corner, has close to 700,000 residents.

Both centres have been lobbying to shed their major city designations after the government introduced incentives to lure foreigners into regional areas. They include policies that qualify international students for the extra work rights and render them eligible for Destination Australia scholarships worth A$15,000 (£8,000) each.

Announcing the changes, education minister Dan Tehan said that the government was intent on attracting more students – both Australian and international – to the regions. “International education made a A$35 billion contribution to the economy last year, yet just 3 per cent of the 690,000 international students were enrolled in regional Australia,” he said.

“We want the entire country to share in the job, business and cultural opportunities that come with international students.”

The minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure, Alan Tudge, said almost 70 per cent of Australia’s population growth in recent years has been in the three biggest cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan told this month’s Australian International Education Conference that he was working with the federal government to have Perth redesignated as regional.

“Western Australia has no regionally based universities – only smaller satellite campuses,” he told the conference on 16 October. “This is something that each of the university chancellors in [the state] is concerned about – that Western Australia is at a disadvantage to the other states.”

The same day, Study Gold Coast chief executive Alfred Slogrove told SBS News that his city only attracted 4 per cent of international students. By comparison, Melbourne and Sydney shared about 85 per cent of international enrolments.

Mr Slogrove said that the Gold Coast had only about half the population of the South Australian capital Adelaide, which was designated as regional. “We’re not looking to be treated differently; we’re just looking to be treated the same when it comes to international education.”

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