Innovative. Dynamic. Diverse. These characteristics draw over a quarter of a million international students to New South Wales (NSW) each year. From the vibrant city life of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong to the breathtaking scenery of the North, Central and South Coasts and Country and Outback NSW, the state hosts unique experiences for every type of student.
Accounting for about 40 percent of Australia’s foreign student population, NSW is home to the country’s leading universities, secondary schools, English colleges and vocational education providers. The state has remained highly attractive because it affords the opportunity to get a quality education while enjoying the scenic lifestyle and entrepreneurial culture Australia is known for.
NSW is home to more universities than any other Australian state, including QS World Rankings top placers such as the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Technology Sydney, University of Newcastle, and University of Wollongong.
A hotbed of innovation, creativity, and culture, Sydney attracts students from around the world and is consistently ranked in the top five student cities in the world. With 40% of the city’s residents born in another country, the city has nurtured a multicultural diversity not found in other parts of the world.
While Sydney mostly appeals to young students seeking an urban buzz, other NSW regions suit those seeking adventure, whether amid the greenery or the beaches.
“Based on an international student survey, over 90% of students report a high level of satisfaction in NSW. It’s even higher in these smaller regions that are uncrowded, where students have better work opportunities because businesses really value the experiences and the skills that these international students bring,” said Peter Mackey, NSW Government’s Director for International Education and the Head of Study NSW.
Study NSW was established in 2014 as a dedicated unit of the NSW Government to support, enhance and improve the experience of international students in the state. As NSW’s largest service export, international education plays an integral role in the state’s economic development, contributing billions of dollars and supporting thousands of local jobs.
In 2019, NSW hosted nearly 300,000 international students from 160 different countries, with Chinese students making up around 29 percent of that group. Beyond their economic contribution, the NSW Government values the impact that international students have in fostering strong communities and building bridges between the state and the rest of the world.
“International education is at the center of the NSW Government’s international strategy in terms of how we position ourselves into the world. International students are key to building long-term bilateral relationships. Every one of our students that returns home with a positive experience feels closer and more connected to NSW and is more likely to invest here or buy our goods and services,” said Mackey.
84 percent of international students return overseas after their studies, many becoming influential in business, research and government, deepening ties between Australia and other countries. These individual stories are a powerful collective force in trade, diplomatic and innovation networks.
International students are important members of local communities, contributing to the state’s cultural capital. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the impact of international education became more evident. Study NSW doubled its efforts in staying present amongst its international students both onshore and offshore.
“The first thing we did when COVID hit was to create an international student hub on our website because we know students need a trusted, reliable source of information. The hub is available in different languages, including Chinese, so that students and families, whether they’re here or at home, can understand what services are accessible to them,” said Mackey.
Leveraging this platform, Study NSW continues to extend their help to international students.
Early in the pandemic, the State Government also announced a significant international student welfare package. The $20+ million relief package includes a temporary housing scheme and student support services, such as legal and referrals support.
“We’re addressing international student food insecurity. We have partnered with an organization here called Foodbank, and we’re distributing over 62,000 emergency food hampers to struggling students. We’ve really tried to make sure international students know that they’re part of our family and our community and that they’re not left behind,” said Mackey.
Mackey’s team is planning for the safe return of international students in 2021. Under the Australian Prime Minister’s guidelines, they are devising a plan which sets the gold standard for safety and security for international students.
“NSW is an extremely safe, welcoming, and multicultural society. The message that I want to highlight to our Chinese students stuck overseas is that we’re thinking of them, and we’re looking forward to welcoming them back. We’re really doing everything we can to open our borders as quickly as we can,” said Mackey.