Should Fiji aim to attract international students from India?


A new report suggests that education services exports could help drive Fiji’s growth further.

Released by ANZ Research, the report focuses on Fiji and balancing the economy notes that while exporting education is not new to Fiji, it could elevate its education exports by attracting well-regarded universities in Australia and/or New Zealand to set up campuses in Fiji, to not only cater for local students but also for their growing foreign student enrolments.

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Authored by senior ANZ economists Dr Kishti Sen and Tom Kenny, the report highlights that Fiji already attracts foreign students mostly from neighbouring Pacific countries to its three universities and vocational colleges.

However, according to the economists Fiji’s education exports are small which peaked at $F48 million in 2016 and generated receipts of just under $F40m in 2022, which was just 2 per cent of total services exports.

According to Dr Sen and Mr Kenny this is offset by the number of Fijians studying abroad, with the net education-related balance (exports less imports) often close to zero or a small negative.

With demand for student places in Australian universities expected to grow, the report highlights the ability for Fiji to provide incentives for some Australian educational institutes to service some of that demand.

“Alternatively, Fiji could follow a similar approach to Australia and offer itself as a destination for tertiary and vocational learning,” it said.

A relatively cheap cost of living, English as the official language, friendly locals, good infrastructure, combined with a pathway to residency have been highlighted as some of the factors that would appeal to the growing student-age population in Asia.

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According to the report the benefits of international students are not limited to the revenue accrued to the education sector through students fees.

Other sectors that are boosted by education-related travel include:

  • Dwellings construction, as students need somewhere to live
  • Retail spending and consumer services sectors
  • Transport
  • Tourism, as families and friends visit students and former students visit Fiji.

Foreign students also add to the labour supply and can fill gaps in the workforce if they are allowed to work certain hours per week.

The report highlights Australia’s booming education sector whereby international students make a significant contribution to its economy.

In 2019 (just prior to the pandemic), education-related travel service credits in Australia amounted to $A40.1 billion ($F59.1b), making education-related travel Australia’s fourth largest export sector, after iron-ore, coal and LNG exports.

More than 950,000 international students studied in Australia in 2019, with more than half coming from Asia (27.3% from China, 15% from India, 7.2% from Nepal, 3.3% from Vietnam and 2.7% from Thailand).

This article was first published in Wansolwara and has been republished here with the kind permission of the editor(s).

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