Building education as a strong pillar of the economy

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The Gold Coast, traditionally known as a tourism town, is rapidly becoming an education destination as well as a popular holiday spot.

The city is now home to more than 200 international and domestic education providers. This figure includes three universities and many trade colleges and language schools as well secondary and primary schools.

The education industry now provides jobs for almost 18,000 Gold Coast residents and every year more than 17,000 foreign students from more than 125 countries arrive to call the city their second home.

Shannon Willoughby, CEO of Study Gold Coast – the city’s peak body representing education, is positioning the Gold Coast as a destination of choice for students and is also using the sector to raise the profile of the city both nationally and internationally.

“The growth of the education sector is a key part of further diversifying the Gold Coast economy,’’ says Willoughby. “Not so long ago tourism was the only drawcard for the city and it became trapped in boom and bust cycles. Now, the city is growing larger, the economy is diversifying and the economy is becoming much more stable.”

Willoughby says Study Gold Coast has three main goals: talent retention, talent attraction and talent growth.

“With our domestic students, we want them to stay on in the city once they finish the education,’’ she says.

“In the past, many students would move away from the Coast when they finished their studies and we want to stop that trend.

“In terms of national and international students, we want them to consider the Gold Coast for their education. We have very high quality education providers, a lifestyle that is incredible and a factor that is important to students is that it is very affordable.”

Willoughby says the education industry is now Australia’s third largest export industry and globally Australia is the third most sought after education destination in the world. Study Gold Coast is working to ensure the city receives its fair share of international students.

“Our competitors internationally are Canada, the United Kingdom and the USA,’’ says Willoughby.

“The Gold Coast is a small city globally, both in terms of population and in terms of education, and traditionally the Australian market has been divided between Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

“However, in this city we now have three world class universities, which are all growing, and we have 140 schools including some of Australia’s best private schools.

“A very conservative estimate shows that $600 million has been spent on improving education infrastructure on the Gold Coast in the past five years.”

Professor Ian O’Connor, the Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University says the university is investing heavily on the Gold Coast for the future.

“Griffith University is the Gold Coast’s biggest university and is now ranked among the top three per cent of universities in the world,’’ he says.

“We have seen significant growth across our campuses in recent years, particularly on the Gold Coast where our student population has grown to more than 18,000.

“The Gold Coast is now the largest of Griffith University’s five campuses in south-east Queensland which boast a total of 50,000 students and 4000 staff.

“This is no coincidence as we have invested heavily in the Gold Coast where we see enormous potential in the city’s Health and Knowledge Precinct.”

Professor O’Connor says international students are a big part of the success of the university.

“Griffith has a strong international student community and they now comprise 19 per cent of our total student population,’’ he says.

“This lends depth to the student experience on many levels, not least being the exchange of new and exciting ideas and the development of enduring relationships that benefit us all.”

Professor Tim Brailsford, the Vice-Chancellor and President at Bond University, which is the Australia’s only private university, says one third of Bond students are international students.

“Across our student cohort, around one-third of our students originate from overseas, one-third come from the other Australian states and around one-third come from Queensland,’’ he says.

“In raw numbers, we have around 1,500 international students studying at Bond at any one time.”

Professor Brailsford says Bond University offers a very different experience to all other Australian universities.

He says the university’s small classes and personalised mentoring approach to teaching ensures that every student receives individual attention and feels part of a close-knit cohort, rather than getting lost in the crowd.

“Quite simply, we compete by offering an outstanding product that is focused on the quality of the experience and the excellence of student outcomes,’’ he says.

“The 2017 Good Universities Guide recently named Bond University as Australia’s #1 university for overall student experience for the 11th consecutive year.

“We consistently rate among the best universities in the world for student satisfaction, teaching quality and skills development.”

Professor Brailsford says Bond’s current strategy is to ensure that the university does not recruit too many international students from one country or region.

“Part of the richness of the Bond experience is the diversification and breadth of our student body,’’ he says.

“The student cohort currently represents more than 80 different countries. We will continue with this strategy. At present, we are looking at growing our presence in Europe particularly from Germany and the Nordic nations.”

Professor O’Connor, Professor Brailsford and Willoughby all agree that the Gold Coast lifestyle is one of the biggest drawcards for students

Willoughby says Study Gold Coast runs an ambassador program for international students and their ambassadors rate the Gold Coast as 10 out of 10 for lifestyle

“The lifestyle is the reason why we live here and the reason we are a tourism destination and it is fast becoming a reason why students want to come here,’’ she says.

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