I’m not sure whether this is a bad thing for education or for tourism. The Australian reports that education has replaced tourism as Australia’s biggest services export and has become the country’s third top export overall, increasing by 21 per cent in 2007 to AUD 12.5 billion. The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures that show that revenue generated by foreign students in this country overtook tourism and was just behind coal and iron ore. I remember that – when I became interested in international education about eight years ago – Australians used to say that it was the fifth or sixth biggest export, up there between lamb and wool.
When you read the words of Tony Pollock, chief executive of IDP Education, you wonder when Australia will start using the slogan of its tourism campaign in promoting higher education. Pollock states in the Australian:
“Education is a bigger drawcard for visitors to Australia than Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and all other tourist attractions put together. Nearly half a million people are living in Australia who would not be here if we stopped educating international students.”
I am getting rather skeptical about all these ‘successes’ of the Australian international (higher) education industry. I guess there’s a saturation point even in the education sector, and Australian education is close to reaching that point. And at some institutions that point was already crossed quite some time ago. Have a look for instance at this Australian documentary with the title that says it all: The Degree Factories.