The sustainability of economic and cultural impacts of international students to regional Australia: The case of Bendigo
Lee J. Yao
Purpose – Recent trends have seen an upward surge in the number of foreign students coming to study in Australia but most of them have chosen to stay in metropolitan cities. Recognising that foreign students studying in regional Australia are making a significant contribution to regional development, regional universities have put in plans to compete with their metropolitan counterparts for these students. The purpose of this paper is to investigate variables related to issues in quality of research, quality of teaching, life style, local cultures, spending patterns, student background, infrastructures etc in order to find out what factors determine the attractiveness for foreign students to come to study in a regional area, in particular to La Trobe University, Bendigo campus. Design/methodology/approach – A survey that forms the backbone of the study was administered to all foreign students, who study in Bendigo, in order to answer this research question. Findings – Based on the findings from the survey, it was found that regional universities have advantages over their metropolitan counterparts in costs, safety and environment etc. Practical implications – A direct economic benefit of over one million dollars was realised by the city of Bendigo but there was potential to increase to three million dollars. Some recommendations were also provided for future development policy useful for the University, the governments, and regional centres’ economy. Originality/value – Although educational export has become a vital part of the Australian economy, very few studies, if any, have examined the magnitude of the economic impacts that have been brought about by international students to regional Australia. To sustain the healthy economic growth of regional centres in Australia, a significant number of international students must be maintained so as to bring the wealth that is becoming so indispensable in order to maintain such sustainable growth. The international students will also bring with them the cultural diversity that otherwise is lacking in regional cities compared to other major cities in Australia. This study seeks to address and quantify the degree and extent of the economic impacts to Bendigo, an important regional city in Victoria. Factors that influence the decisions before the international students actually come to Australia are also examined together with what cultural activities they get involved in when they are here. The findings can provide measurable outputs for decision makers to direct necessary resources appropriately in order to sustain the growth of this industry and to develop strategies to address some problems related to the continuing growth of this industry.
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