THE Gold Coast's billion-dollar international student market is about to get bigger after Study Gold Coast secured a new agreement with a key Chinese market.
The deal with Chengdu Education Bureau taps into a market of 81 million people with plans to engage with potential students through a social media campaign in the burgeoning Chinese province.
The move comes as latest figures show the international education sector is running neck and neck with international tourism as a contributor to the Gold Coast economy. Each is valued about $1 billion to the Gold Coast, and growing at above-average rates.
The growth of international student numbers on the Gold Coast has been buoyed by a surge in Chinese investment in the city.
The value of international students is tracking closely the growth in international tourism on the Gold Coast, with both recording a 7 per cent increase over 2014.
A Tourism Research Australia's International Visitor Survey earlier this year revealed growth in inbound tourism alone was well above the Queensland average of 5.5 per cent.
International students now account for 17,000 of the Gold Coast's total student population of 47,000, and many observers say this is having a positive flow-on to the local tourism sector as family and friends visit students locally during their study.
Study Gold Coast figures show that each Chinese student is worth about $100,000 to the Gold Coast economy.
"This agreement will open the door for more students from Chengdu and greater China to choose the Gold Coast as a study option," says Study Gold Coast CEO Shannon Willoughby, who was a keynote speaker at the Dujianyan International Forum in China when she made the announcement.
"Our research shows that for every additional 200 Chinese students studying at university, $20 million is injected into the local economy. We see this as a way of building student numbers and, in turn, more visitors to the city.
"The Federal Government wants to double the amount of students choosing Australia as a study destination by 2025 and, given the expansion of the Gold Coast institutes and colleges, the city is well placed to deliver some of that growth. This is why there is renewed focus on positioning the Gold Coast as an education destination.
"This campaign will help us boost recognition of the quality of Gold Coast education providers and develop an increased destination brand presence in China."
Under the framework agreement secured between Study Gold Coast and Chengdu Education Bureau, both education organisations will create a social media competition in China with winners to be awarded a Gold Coast study experience.
Chengdu Education Bureau, in collaboration with Study Gold Coast, will select 20 schools to participate in the competition, liaise with universities, vocational collages and training schools in Chengdu Municipality.
Study Gold Coast is the peak marketing body for the education and training industry. The independent body works with industry and government to promote and grow the city's education sector.
Its core members include TAFE Queensland Gold Coast, Griffith University, Bond University and Southern Cross University.
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