Universities Australia is the peak body representing 38 of Australia's universities both nationally and internationally. Universities contribute to Australia's progress, and Universities Australia is committed to developing policies and providing services that enhance those contributions. We are pleased to provide comment on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Australia and the Republic of Korea.
As stated in the joint non-government feasibility study into a possible FTA, while trade in goods dominates the relationship, education services represented over half of the total services exports to Korea. As commodity markets lose their dynamism securing the education services markets as best can be encouraged, including through trade agreements, would seem a high priority for government.
Korea is in fact the third largest source country for international students in Australia and is the largest single market for English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) from Korea. University ELICOS Centres in turn teach about 25% of those ELICOS students in Australia. These are important sources of export revenue and they represent important sources of enhanced global integration. The movement of persons also has long-term trade spin-offs of many kinds and enhances regional understanding.
Universities Australia seeks enhancement of education services exports, but also enhancement of the political, social and cultural benefits that can accompany that in this area. This includes mutually beneficial research activities as well as education and training. And within education and training, we are interested in facilitating two-way movement, so as to enhance Australian interest in Korean education experience.
As regards export activity, the effects of the global financial situation on international education exports themselves are yet to become clear. However, the ELICOS market is said to be the `canary in the coal mine' for the Australian industry. Should the financial crisis manifest negatively on international education exports, then it is likely that Korean ELICOS student numbers will be one of the first indicators of this. These therefore are being watched carefully.
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