Industry Impact

Economic Contribution of International Education in Western Australia 2021

International students contribute an enormous amount – culturally, socially, economically, politically – to our nation and our state.

"WA is the powerhouse of our nation’s trade. Providing overseas students access to higher education makes a significant contribution to our economy and provides the foundation for greater trade and cultural exchange for generations to come. The jobs created through international education extend beyond our universities and VET sector to sectors such as tourism, retail, hospitality and real estate." Chris Rodwell, Chief Executive Officer, CCIWA

The international education sector was identified as one of six priority sectors in the WA Government’s economic development framework, Diversify WA. This was based on the clear opportunity for WA to grow its international presence and brand as an education destination, underpinned by increasing urbanisation and a growing number of consumers in key source markets seeking a quality education alongside a healthy and vibrant lifestyle, and excellent economic prospects.

In 2020, StudyPerth commissioned ACIL Allen to quantify the economic importance of international education to the WA economy. It was estimated that in 2019, the 53,404 international student enrolments in Western Australia boosted the State’s Gross State Product by $2.1 billion and supported almost 12,000 direct and indirect FTE jobs across Western Australia.

Since the completion of this study in April 2020, the international education sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, as governments around the world close their borders to protect the health and wellbeing of their citizens.

This report will assist StudyPerth and the international education sector in strengthening its recovery by detailing the scale and the channels through which international education in Western Australia helps grow the economy and create jobs. Here's a snapshot:

  • Trends in international education in WA
    • In 2020, there were 49,681 international student enrolments in WA education and training institutions, a decline of 6.5 per cent on the previous year, making it the first year since 2014 that WA recorded total international student enrolments below 50,000.
    • By education sub-sector, higher education accounted for 48 per cent of total enrolments, while VET accounted for 33 per cent. Of the remaining sub-sectors, ELICOS accounted for 14 per cent of total enrolments, followed by schools (1.5 per cent) and non-award (2.8 per cent).
    • In 2020, Western Australia’s two largest source markets for international students were again India (18.4 per cent) and China (14.3 per cent). The next three largest source markets for Western Australia in 2020 were Malaysia (5 per cent), Bhutan (4.6 per cent) and Nepal (4.2 per cent).
  • Remote study
    • Between July 2020 and March 2021, the proportion of enrolled international students located in Australia declined from 83 per cent to 69 per cent, while the proportion located outside of Australia has increased over the same period from 13 per cent to 25 per cent.
    • Overall, the total enrolled international students across all Australian states and territories declined by 11 per cent between July 2020 and March 2021.The total enrolled international students are expected to continue to decline as the number of students completing courses exceeds new commencements.
  • Economic contribution of international education
    • It is estimated that expenditure by international students contributed $1.34 billion to the WA economy in 2020, a decline of $761 million (36 per cent) compared to 2019.
    • It is estimated that for every international student enrolled at a WA education institution, accounting for both onshore and offshore students, $48,608 was contributed to the State’s economy in 2020.
    • The economic multiplier of international student expenditure is estimated to be 3.6, meaning every dollar of spending by an international student generated $3.60 in value added across the WA economy in 2020.
    • Overall, expenditure by international students supported 7,536 direct and indirect FTE jobs across Western Australia in 2020.
    • ACIL Allen estimates the decline in international students as a result of the impact of border closures resulted in a loss of 4,399 direct and indirect FTE jobs supported by the international education sector compared to the previous year.
    • The economic consequences from the decline in international student numbers in WA in 2020 was equivalent to 20 per cent of the output and more than 12 per cent of all jobs in the State’s hospitality sector last financial year.
  • Estimated impact of ongoing border closures
    • Further declines in overall student numbers studying in Western Australia are projected, with numbers not returning to 2020 levels until mid-2023, and pre-pandemic levels unlikely to be reached until well beyond the forecast period.
  • Download the FULL REPORT

Other critical impacts of international education


Culture and politics

"International education brings great benefits to students as they undertake a world-class education in Australia.

There are also significant benefits to Australia as international students bring a diversity of perspectives and world outlook during their time on campus.

The bonds of friendship between international and domestic students bring benefits to both nations as future leaders are more knowledgeable about our region and the complexity of world affairs."

Hon. Julie Bishop




"An immediate and as well as long term impact is that many international students undertake vital research here, often helping to form new or advancing established collaborations with leading overseas research teams.

These links often continue to blossom long after the students’ study periods, with exchange visits and access to international funding agencies from which Australia would otherwise be excluded."

Professor Lyn Beazley AO FAA FTSE



Investment and population growth

"The contribution of international students is well understood by developers and urban planners.

Visiting international students who invest in our State are attracted by the lifestyle, safety, amenity and long term capital growth prospects.

Beyond contributing to the thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the property sector, international students and temporary migrants add to the vibrancy and viability of the places they inhabit, filling cafes, restaurants, shops and gyms."

Sandra Brewer, Executive Director, Property Council of WA