Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Indian student numbers to Australia plummet

Indian students rally in Melbourne, Australia, 31 May 2009
Australia's South Asian community has protested against the attacks

The number of Indian students wanting to study in Australia has slumped by almost 50%, according to figures from the Australian government.

The decline follows a year when attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney made headlines in India.

They also caused diplomatic relations to sour between Canberra and Delhi.

The Indian government issued a travel advisory to students going to Australia, after the Melbourne murder of graduate student Nitin Garg.

Reputational damage

According to a report by Australia's Tourism Forecasting Committee (TFC) in December, more than 70,000 Indians studied in Australia in 2009.

Students from the subcontinent accounted for 19% of total international enrolments.

But the number of Indians applying for student visas to Australia has plummeted by 46% according to the most recent figures from the immigration department.

The drop-off in applicants follows a spate of attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney in the first half of last year, and a rash of unfavourable headlines about the unscrupulous practices of some colleges and migration agents.

The government figures are from last July to October - and it is feared that the recent murder of Nitin Garg will raise even more concerns about student safety, and lead many more to look at universities and colleges in other countries.

Certainly, that is the view of an education agent in India, who has said this most lucrative of markets was "absolutely doomed."

International students are worth $13bn (£8.1bn) to the Australian economy each year - after coal and iron ore, education is the country's third biggest export.

There have been widespread fears about how the attacks on Indian students would impact numbers - fears which are now being realised.

Overall, international student visa applications are down by a quarter, which education experts say may be the result of the strength of the Australian dollar and the tightening of the visa applications process.

But they also accept that Australia has suffered reputational damage, especially in India.

According to the TFC, the drop in the number of Indian students is expected to cost Australia almost $70m (£44m) this year.

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