International education

International education

Local economic impact

  • Contributes $1.6 billion to the economy
  • Generates over $5.8 billion in NSW exports
  • 1 in 16 residents are international students

Making a big impact

The international education sector contributes more than $1.6 billion to the local economy, which is estimated to create demand for about 4,000 local jobs and some 10,000 jobs at a national level.

There are around 35,000 international students studying within the City of Sydney and around 10,700 who live in the local area. This makes the sector the second largest export earner for NSW, generating over $5.8 billion in exports during 2010/11 alone.

In fact, NSW has the largest international student industry in Australia, attracting between 46 to 54% of all full-fee paying students over the past 10 years.

The sector is the largest serviced-based export industry in Australia generating $18 billion a year and it is the third largest export earner for the nation, only surpassed by coal and iron ore. This represents an almost fourfold increase from a $5 billion industry just a decade ago.

Business opportunities

An important part of the sector is the wide variety of local businesses that provide services and potential employment to students from abroad, for example:

  • accommodation providers hosting international students
  • employers hiring students, during or at the end of their studies
  • tourism businesses catering to students and their visiting families.

Even those students who study or live outside the City make an important contribution too, as they are likely to spend time in Sydney enjoying our world-class attractions, shopping, restaurants and bars when they first arrive, or during their leisure time. A recent report by Access Economics for the City found that these students were estimated to contribute around $1,250 million to the national economy, mostly within the greater Sydney region.

Enrolment patterns

More than 100 educational institutions within the City cater to international students, which can be divided into 4 major categories:

  • universities
  • schools
  • vocational education and training (VET) providers
  • English language intensive courses for overseas students (ELICOS) providers.

Across NSW universities make up the largest component of students at 40.3%, with most students studying at publicly-funded institutions. This is followed by VET providers making up 32.9%, ELICOS providers account for 19% while 2.8% of international students study at school. The majority of private enrolments are at VET and ELICOS providers and there is roughly an even distribution of students between public and private enrolments at schools.

Our focus

The sector is a key component of our local economy – its high quality and reputation, and its potential for growth both in economic contribution and job creation makes it a priority now and into the future.

International students contribute to the vibrancy and liveability of Sydney, which enhances our cultural diversity and strengthens the international links to our global city.

The City welcomes international students as part of Sydney's global talent hub. You can find out more in our international education action plan.

We are keen to make sure that this important contribution to our city is recognised and nurtured. The City supports the sector and your business, through the following programs and initiatives:

The Group of Eight (Go8), a coalition of leading Australian universities, also encourages recognising the importance of the international education sector.

"International education is much more than a business. The relationships formed through international education underpin Australia's engagement with the world, and help sustain goodwill, trade and investment.

"They are the basis of future research collaboration. They open doors for Australia and make Australia's creative and intellectual assets more visible to other countries. They improve our reputation internationally as a centre for learning, research and innovation," according to the Go8 website. You can read more below under Links.


Go8: The importance of international education for Australia NSW Trade & Investment: StudyNSW Sydney Business Chamber

Last updated: Tuesday, 21 August 2018