Making the decision to move to Perth can be a daunting proposition for many Chinese students, with Western Australia still largely unknown despite its relative proximity to their homes.
Instead, Chinese students earn degrees in much greater numbers at universities in the better-known states of New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland.
The latest data from the federal government’s Department of Education and Training also showed South Australia and the ACT eclipsed WA in terms of Chinese student enrolments.
However, a Perth-based school has established a new initiative in an effort to reverse the trend of declining Chinese student numbers in WA.
St Stephen’s College, part of one of the largest independent schools in WA, recently launched a bespoke certificate program to help prospective international students prepare for life in Perth.
The college has partnered with two Chinese schools, in Shanghai and Luoyang, to offer an International Education Pathway course, which was launched in September.
A second phase of the program will be launched in 2018, with St Stephen’s College seeking formal arrangements with additional schools in Dalian, Shanghai, Luoyang, Deyang and Shenzhen.
St Stephen’s College managing director Iain Langridge said the program was developed through engagement with universities in China, as well as Curtin University, the University of Western Australia, Edith Cowan University and Murdoch University.
“In our classrooms in China we will have imagery from WA and the WA universities will have the opportunity to talk to students about life in Perth,” Mr Langridge said.
“And in terms of the state government and organisations like StudyPerth, we’ll be working with them to promote Perth as a wonderful destination for students.
“We’ve got the environment, we’ve got ease of access, we have world-class universities, we’ve got world-class living standards, we’ve got everything going for us here in Perth, we need to tell the story more and promote Perth as a destination for international students.”
Mr Langridge said while there was surging interest from international students to study in Australia, much of the growth in student numbers in recent years had occurred in other states.
The latest data from the DET showed there were 583,243 international students enrolled in high schools, universities or vocational education and training providers at the end of June.
Chinese students made up the lion’s share of enrolments, with 170,547 enrolled across Australia.
However, just 5,731 of those Chinese students were enrolled at institutions in Perth.
In comparison, there were around 65,000 Chinese students enrolled in courses in NSW, and just less than 60,000 in Victoria.
Mr Langridge said the statistics were the latest in a series of reports over the past 18 months, which indicated a decline in the number of international students coming to Perth.
“The mining and construction boom in Perth made us a bit complacent, and attracting international students is not something that we have focused on unfortunately,” Mr Langridge told Australia China Business Review.
“But that opportunity exists now, international education is Australia’s third largest export earner, at $24 billion in the last 12 months, and there is a really good opportunity for WA to take full advantage of that.
“There is no time like the present, and from a WA economy point of view, it’s really important that we foster industries that are part of a transition.
“Mining will always be a part of the Western Australian landscape but I think what we’ve learned in the wind down from the last boom is that we need to make more of industries that have longer-term incremental growth and can do some of the heavy lifting as mining goes up and down.
“Industries like international education can run along and really do their bit for the economy, and I think there is opportunity to do more.”