Australia aims to boost international education as mining boom fades

MELBOURNE, April 30 (Reuters) – The Australian government outlined a plan on Saturday to boost the appeal of its universities and education institutions to foreign students, as the country looks to rebalance its economy with the fading of a decade-long mining boom.

An English-speaking country at the doorstep of Asia and offering an enviable quality of life, Australia now sits with the United States and United Kingdom as a top destination for foreign students, many from China and India.

Worth more than A$19 billion ($14.43 billion) last year according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, international education has become the third biggest export for the country after iron ore and coal.

"This is a very exciting strategy to build on the strength of Australia’s international education system that has seen over 2.5 million students from overseas study in our world class universities and institutions over the last couple of decades," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said at meeting of 80 diplomats in the Australian city of Launceston.

The 10-year blue print for boosting international education focused on ensuring nationwide standard quality assurance and regulation as well as increasing support for international students.

While international students have provided a boost for the Australian economy, concerns have also been raised about quality, regulation for smaller private education institutions and shortfalls in sufficient affordable student housing leading to overcrowding.

Seeing the potential in the growth of the student housing market, Goldman Sachs has partnered with investor Blue Sky to launch a A$1 billion ($763 million) fund to invest in the sector.

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