Sydney: Australia’s international student sector, the third largest export earner, is forecast to see a 20% drop in Indian students in 2010, costing $69.7 million, after a series of attacks on Indians students in 2009.
A study by The Tourism Forecasting Committee released on Wednesday found that while international tourism numbers were expected to grow by 4.3% in 2010, there would be a significant decline in international student arrivals.
It forecast 4,000 fewer Indian students, a fall of 21% compared with a 35% rise in 2009.
“The resultant loss in economic value to Australia could be as high as A$78 million in 2010 if these enrolments are not filled by other international students,” a statement by the Tourism Forecasting Committee said.
The study attributed the fall in Indian student numbers to a spate of attacks on Indian students that cast a shadow over the Australian education industry in mid-2009.
The attacks in Melbourne and Sydney, which police blamed on opportunistic criminals, escalated into a diplomatic issue between Australia and India after some Indian students and Indian media labelled the attacks as racist.
Australia’s international student sector is the country’s third largest export earner, behind coal and iron ore, totalling A$13 billion ($10 billion) in 2007-08.
In 2009, there were more than 70,000 Indians studying in Australia. Australia is a major destination for Indian students studying abroad, who recognize the cost competitiveness of Australian education services.
Enrolments of Indian students in Australia had increased at an average annual rate of around 41% since 2002.
“What we’re saying is that based on consideration of visa applications there’s a 20% hit,” chairman of The Tourism Forecasting Committee, Bernard Salt, told local radio.
“This is a segment that has grown strongly throughout this decade but the downturn is expected in response to concerns that the Indian community have had about safety,” said Salt.
“I suppose the query is whether in fact this is a structural issue that will be with us for some time, that is one fifth of the market has been evaporated, or whether in fact this is a knee-jerk, just a one-year reaction,” he said.
The president of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia, Gautam Gupta, said the forecast drop in Indian students is not as bad as first predicted after the attacks.
“We were predicting a drop of about 50%, so if the drop is about 20%, that’s significantly lower than what was the prediction about three months back,” he told radio.
Gupta said Indian student numbers could rebound as early as 2011, if attacks continued to decline. The study said the negative impact from the attacks should not continue beyond 2010.