Student Caps Threaten Victorian Economy

Monash University and University of Melbourne

New independent analysis has revealed that the government's proposed introduction of caps on universities' international student enrolments would seriously damage the Victorian economy, strengthening calls for a review of the proposal.

The analysis, prepared by SPP Consulting for the University of Melbourne and Monash University, has found Victorian public universities contribute $27.4 billion to Victoria's economy. Students and staff at Victorian universities contribute around $15.4 billion in consumer spending on food, clothing and entertainment in the state.

This economic benefit is under threat with the Australian Government pushing ahead with its proposed international student caps. Slashing enrolment numbers would jeopardise many small businesses still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic downturn, putting a range of service industry jobs at risk.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Global, Culture and Engagement at the University of Melbourne, Professor Michael Wesley reiterated the significant harms the proposed caps could cause for the state's economic health.

"Victorian public universities' direct contribution to gross domestic product in 2023 was $6.7 billion, representing 1.2 percent of total economic activity in the state. The potential loss of income from the proposed caps will place an additional burden on our federal budget, which will in turn impact our state's budget, and our ability to fund important services and infrastructure for all students," said Professor Wesley.

"Critical services like healthcare are already being cut in Victoria due to funding pressures. These proposed caps will only do more harm to our state".

Monash University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International) Professor Craig Jeffrey said the report highlighted the role international students play in supporting the economy. "Limiting the entry of international students to world-leading universities risks damaging the Victorian economy, vital research, and our standing and impact in the region," said Professor Jeffrey.

"Capping international students will deprive the sector of revenue and thereby undermine life-saving medical research. We depend on a flow of brilliant international students for this vital research to be funded and delivered.

"One of the wonderful things about living and working in Victoria is that we get to interact with international students. They are crucial to the social, intellectual and cultural life of our state – and this report demonstrates they are also absolutely critical for our economy."

Professor Wesley urged the Australian Government to reconsider the caps or risk damaging the nation's reputation as a first-choice higher education destination.

"Trust, confidence and interest in Australia as a high-quality higher education provider has been built up over decades. What the Australian government is proposing is being interpreted as a major new source of sovereign risk that is spooking prospective students and their parents, as well as investors and credit rating agencies. Instability from sudden policy changes in visa settings and costs will drive students to study in other countries".

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