Student push hits a wall

IT is now apparent the plan to create an enclave for foreign students here is a long way from reality.

Last week Councillor John Arkan won council support to push ahead with a feasibility study to explore enterprise and educational links with other countries.

But while TAFE courses remain viable, the head of the Coffs Harbour campus for Southern Cross University, Rosie Wickert, said their own market research suggested the demand was very limited at this stage.

Ms Wickert says her institution remained very supportive, however, of any push to attract more international students.

“Our research tells us that Indian students in particular prefer to study in metropolitan areas and they are often seeking post-graduate courses which we don’t offer,” Ms Wickert said.

“SCU recognises the economic value to the city of international students but of the 100 we currently have enrolled, only two are from India.”

Ms Wickert said while the local SCU campus has the potential to grow and change quickly there was no current market research to support building new infrastructure to cater for more foreign students.

“We would also be less confident in supporting the notion of university students commuting for 30 to 40 minutes from Woolgoolga. Part of the appeal and value of being an international student is being able to live on campus, walk to lectures and mix with other students from diverse backgrounds,” she said.

Cr Arkan remains steadfast.

He said he wants to invite the Indian Australian Business Council and the Indian High Commissioner to a forum with interested business people in the city to discuss what possible links can be made.

“With India being the second largest economy in the world and investing in other parts of Australia we want to explore where there are chances here on the North Coast,” he said.

The general manager of the Coffs Harbour City Council, Stephen Sawtell, said an issues paper developed by council’s Education, Business and Training Committee will soon be distributed to local politicians, stakeholders and Indian Consul General.

“We will gather feedback ahead of a report being presented to council about the process and costings associated with attracting more foreign students to the city,” Mr Sawtell said.

“We want to see what sort of potential there is in offering vocational training to foreign students. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with North Coast TAFE to build some teaching units at the Botanic Garden to meet the demand for horticulture training and we’ve spoken with local blueberry growers about their needs for student pickers.”

The Manager of International Programs at the North Coast Institute for TAFE, Jill Gray, said several hundred international students were already enrolled at its campuses between Tweed Heads and Forster.

“We already promote Coffs Harbour as a regional tourism and education destination and so would welcome any opportunity to explore options for increasing our numbers of foreign students,” Ms Gray said.

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