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Quick smart: Coast to cash in on 'first to market' foreign student strategy

Business

The Gold Coast is showing the way for Queensland to become a global hot-spot for international students wanting to get back to study quickly and safely.

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By cashing in on the state’s handling of COVID-19 and friendly visa conditions, the Gold Coast expects to seize a greater share of student numbers and get the jump on rival international study destinations, including London and the United States.

Being first back in the international market, potentially one or two semesters earlier than major competitors, could mean a significant uptick for the sector that generates $5.4 billion a year for Queensland as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t want to be Pollyanna about it, but there’s reason to be optimistic,” Study Gold Coast chief Alfred Slogrove told InQueensland.

“The Gold Coast, Queensland and Australia have taken the right steps to keep us safe, and if anything, we are positioned well with the foundations that we laid last year as a destination to really come out of this thing gaining momentum and gaining market share.”

The Gold Coast is currently aggressively targeting Brazil, India, China and Japan to resurrect the flow of international students and lure more, who may otherwise have opted to study in the US or UK, with offers of a safe, quality study option. The city is also aiming to make inroads into the international student market in Spain, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam.

While the national university sector has been hit hard by the sudden and steep drop in international student enrolments, Slogrove said applications and offers for the Gold Coast were gaining momentum.

The Gold Coast currently has around 12,000 students still on the Gold Coast studying with another 5,000 still studying offshore or online.

Study Gold Coast is currently supporting those students still in the city with 12,000 meals across 15 education institutions and the Gold Coast Student Hub each week, along with 100 grocery packs.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said education was rapidly becoming one of the dominant pillars of the city’s broadening economy, worth $3.5 billion with the potential to grow quickly.

Combined with the medical and research industries, which had also seen recent growth as money began pouring toward vaccine research, the combined sectors outstripped the $6 billion tourism industry on the Gold Coast.

“Now if I’m a parent and the most precious thing I have is my kids, I’m going to think New York is wonderful, London is wonderful, but the Gold Coast is really wonderful too and what stands out the most is that we have had zero fatalities – it’s not just wonderful, it is safe,” Tate said.

As of December 2019, the Gold Coast hosted 35,799 students, which was a 10 per cent increase on the previous year.

The Gold Coast late last year also secured regional classification, rather than metropolitan classification for international study, which allowed faster visa processing and the city’s international university graduates to access three years of post-study work rights, up from two years.

“We have a huge opportunity with our offering of a safe, quality education and offering post-study work rights, as well as last year being recognised as Australia’s most affordable student city for two years in a row,” Slogrove said.

“Students are going to be more acutely aware of what it costs to study in international locations as well as the benefits, so the return on their investment is a lot higher when you compare the Gold Coast with any other location in the world at the moment.”

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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