Go West: WA calls for international students

The State Government has announced millions in support to boost the number of international students but many in WA say they’re struggling to afford the basics.  

The government plans to commit $13 million to attract and support new international students in Perth. 

Being an international student has its ups and downs. Video: Oliver Lane.

About 50,000 international students were enrolled in WA in 2019, contributing more than $2 billion to the state’s economy according to a study released in 2021. 

India and China were the most common source of international students.

$5.5 million of the funds is set to go towards supporting international students through the International Student Accommodation Subsidy and the ELICOS Bursary

This would include extending one off grant of $1,500 for the cost of living, accommodation or course fees. 

Gavin Tang is one of the 25,000 students studying in Western Australia. Photo: Oliver Lane.

Gavin Tang moved to Perth from Malaysia to study a Bachelor of Arts.

Mr Tang lives in Midland. His family in Malaysia help to cover his rent.

“I was staying in Joondalup with my sister so coming here (to Curtin University) was really a pain in the ass because it would take two hours for transport,” he says.

“Back in Joondalup we faced difficulties in cost and the increase in terms of the rental fee prices increasing.”

He says many of his friends had to find new accommodation after fees increased. 

International students filled about 12,000 jobs in WA in 2019. Photo: Oliver Lane.

“Some of my friends are staying in student accommodation and then the rental fees increase quite a bit so they had no choice but to move to other accommodations,” Mr Tang says.

The plan would also include $6 million in funding for promoting Western Australia as a destination for study. 

StudyPerth’s chief executive officer Derryn Belford says the current number of international students is about half that of 2019. 

“We are looking to get back the students that we had and get the numbers back up,” she says. 

“We would like to double the size of the sector in the next five to seven years.”

Ms Belford says WA is lagging behind other states in recovering numbers of international students.

“We are a long way behind other capital cities of Australia in terms of the number of international students we have,” she says.

“We should have more students than we have.”

Many students rely on university associated accomodation for housing. Photo: Oliver Lane.

Ms Belford says Perth needs more housing for incoming students. 

“We only have about 1,500 beds in the centre of the city, even Adelaide has more beds.”

StudyPerth CEO Derryn Belford

Mr Tang says he would like to see adequate support for international students, who are not as lucky as him. 

“We should have support for international students because some of them come from different backgrounds and different financial backgrounds,” he says.

“So it would be best to put student commissions cheaper, at a lower price and be better quality.”