Brisbane education industry unfazed by bad Chinese press

Despite reports indicating Chinese students are turning their back on studying in Australia, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk says Brisbane has nothing to be concerned about.

International education is Australia's largest export market and is worth $21.8 billion. Last year, Cr Quirk estimated the industry contributed $3.77 billion to Brisbane's economy alone.

Concerns were raised in Chinese media that the nation's students were questioning the value of overseas education, particularly in Australia, as studying abroad did not guarantee a good job for the student once they returned home.

The People's Daily, China's biggest newspaper, went as far as to editorialise that returning students were "incompatible to domestic society" following their experience abroad.

The South China Morning Post reported that in 2008 only 44,000 people returned to the mainland, yet in 2016, the number rose nearly 10-fold to 432,500.

In comparison, the number of people choosing to study abroad only rose threefold during the same period, from 144,000 in 2007 to 432,500 in 2016, according to the report.

Cr Quirk said this report did not concern him, as Brisbane was still experiencing growth from the Chinese market.

"There is no indication of a slowing interest," he said.

"In fact, Brisbane is becoming better known as a city and as that continues to occur we're finding a strong response to potential young students to come to our city."

The council introduced an incentive for student accommodation in 2015, offering a reduction in infrastructure charges.

A year after the incentive was introduced, the council had received 23 applications for new student accommodation blocks.

Cr Quirk said the incentive had provided an extra 13,000 beds for students but believed they would also be occupied.

"Out of the China market alone in the last year we've seen 23 per cent growth, that's from July 2016 to July 2017," he said.

"But it's not all just about the Asian market because whilst India was previously our number two source we're seeing extremely strong growth in the areas of Brazil and Columbia.those parts of the world are really discovering Brisbane in a big way as well.

"Those parts of the world are really discovering Brisbane in a big way as well."

While Cr Quirk showed no immediate concern that Chinese students were being dissuaded from studying in Australia, he said the council would "cross that bridge if we come to it".

"We're a maturing market, Brisbane, we're on the rise both in terms of our identification internationally and also the fact that we've not yet peaked in that we have not gone out there aggressively in markets at education expos and the like," he said.

"So that's the next phase of what we're doing, so we will up the ante in terms of marketing."

Queensland University of Technology deputy vice-chancellor Scott Sheppard said the number of Chinese students studying at QUT had been "very similar" for the past five years.

"International students constitute 16 per cent of QUT's overall student cohort (national average is 25 per cent). This equates to just under 8000 students out of 50,000," he said.

"Of the international students at QUT, just under 26 per cent, about 2100, are from China. Chinese students represent 4 per cent of our total student cohort."

Griffith University vice president Sarah Todd said research commissioned by the Australian Universities International Directors' Forum last year found that 79 per cent of international graduates from the 2012 cohort reported being in full-time employment three years out from graduation.

"Another 4 per cent were self-employed and only 4.4 per cent reported being underemployed," Professor Todd said.

"Eighty per cent of respondents agreed that their Australian university education supported their skills development and workplace readiness".

The University of Queensland did not respond to questions.

This story Brisbane education industry unfazed by bad Chinese press first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.