Inside Sydney’s extraordinary international student boom

Inside Sydney’s extraordinary international student boom, by Matt Wade.

We’ve had a housing boom. We’ve had an infrastructure boom. But there’s another boom reshaping Sydney: international education.

The cranes over university campuses across town are one sign of the billions being pumped into the economy by overseas students, a change reflected in classrooms too.

Overseas student numbers have surged at Sydney’s universities during the past few years. …

At Sydney University, overseas student fees rose 92 per cent in three years – from $391 million in 2014 to $752 million last year. At the University of NSW, consolidated revenue from overseas student fees jumped 26 per cent between 2015 and 2016 alone to a handy $560 million. …

Critics say universities are now over-dependent on the money international students can bring in, especially as government funding for teaching and research is squeezed. Others say the dependence on overseas – and especially Chinese – cash is “corroding the soul of our universities”. …

In 2016 the fee income from overseas students in NSW universities surpassed the fee income from domestic students for the first time. …

Nationally, about one in three international students are Chinese, but the figure is double that at Sydney University and UNSW. …

Last year nearly one in four of all students enrolled at Sydney University – the state’s biggest tertiary institution – were Chinese. That share was more than one in five at the University of NSW and one in six at the University of Technology, Sydney. …

Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University, Clive Hamilton, agrees. “We know that Beijing is masterful at using economics levers to achieve political goals,” he says. “They will pull that lever in a big way sooner or later and that’s when universities will really have to decide what they stand for.”