Audit Office says NSW unis in good shape but at-risk if  demand drops from big international markets

Universities in NSW increased their dependence on international student fees in 2017, with the state’s Audit Office warning; “universities should assess their student market concentration risk where they rely heavily on students from a single country of origin. This increases their sensitivity to economic or political changes in that country.”

The universities of Sydney and NSW both collected significantly more fee-income from internationals last year, around $1.5bn, than from local students.

The two with, roughly equal shares of international fee income accounted for 52 per cent of the total for all the state’s universities. Both UNSW and UniSyd depend on the China market, which accounts for over 60 per cent of international fee income.

UTS also relies on Chinese students for approximately 60 per cent of internationals while around half of Charles Sturt U’s internationals are from India.

The AO also points to a continuing growth in outlays, with all-university spending on staff up 8.2 per cent last year from 2016. Total operating expenditures grew 27 per cent in 2013-17 while EFTS increased by 8.4 per cent. The recent trend of increasing margin per EFT has also slowed, leaving institutions “more at risk from unexpected fluctuations, such as political or economic change that impact overseas student enrolments.”

While all universities are financially sound, the Audit Office also warns that the federal government’s funding freeze will, “put pressure on all NSW universities. Those that are least well-off may find the strain significant, particularly if total expenditures continue to increase and operating margins decrease.”


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