We have more than 35,000 international students in the city, making us the most popular destination for overseas study in the world.
This week I welcomed another cohort of international students with our annual event at Town Hall – service providers come along to tell them how to get the most out of their time here and students love the chance to make new friends.
We have a great global talent pool of professionals across all disciplines, especially in areas like financial and business services, the creative industries and tourism. And as Australia’s gateway to Asia and the Pacific, we are the country’s most internationally-focused city.
Our large international student body is evidence of that, and an important link between Sydney and the world. These students enrich our city and cultural life, and help connect us to their home country and home cities.
Together, our universities and smaller institutions have over 100,000 international students enrolled, forming an important element of the local economy, worth almost $7 billion to NSW which puts it ahead of tourism as the State’s highest service export industry.
Our International Student Well-being survey – the first of its kind in Australia – found some positive results, and also a number of challenges for us.
On the positive side, eighty per cent of students say they enjoyed studying in Sydney and nine out of 10 would recommend our city as a great place to live and study.
Most students told us they feel safe here, and that they feel they can trust the police. They are keen to connect with local communities and feel that our culturally diverse community provides a platform to celebrate their culture.
But a number of worrying issues emerged before they arrived in Sydney.
These included the cost of living, including transport and accommodation costs; concerns about finding a job and being vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers and also concerns about being able to speak English.
We focus on three aspects of life for our international students, summed up as Welcoming, Well-being and Work Integrated Learning – the three Ws.
This year, we have a focus on water safety which is vital in Australia. With an unprecedented number of drownings – 17 recorded in NSW since mid-December – it’s something we all need to focus on. Just last month two international students from Pakistan got into difficulties in the waters off Newcastle. Tragically, one drowned.
As well as the Lord Mayor's Welcome, we work with Insider Guides to put together the Sydney International Student Guide, to help students discover everything there is to love about their temporary hometown and run the award-winning International Student Leadership and Ambassador program.