Home | News | USyd $353m surplus, with $1.46bn overseas student revenue
International students enrolled at the University of Sydney. Picture: NCA Newswire/John Feder

USyd $353m surplus, with $1.46bn overseas student revenue

The University of Sydney (USyd) has reported its third surplus in a row amid changing rules to international student enrolments, which last year earned the university $1.46bn in revenue.

Its $353m surplus in 2023 follows a $302m surplus in 2022, and an astonishing $1.05bn surplus in 2021.

USyd was the only NSW university to report a surplus last year, as seen in its 2023 annual report.

Most universities are financially struggling with softening domestic student enrolments as school leavers choose to work instead of study.

It is also the only Australian university to record an overseas student revenue above $1bn for five years in a row.

The Group of Eight (Go8) university is popular among international students, especially Chinese students, who made up 78.3 percent of total student income in 2023, up from 77.8 percent in 2022.

The report also says its international students "contribute $1.4bn directly to the NSW economy, with an estimated further $2.5bn in indirect benefits."

The Labor government is cutting the number of international students universities can enrol as part of its larger plan to cut net overseas migration to 260,000 next financial year and reduce the permanent migration intake to 185,000 to combat inflation and rental crisis issues.

The Coalition has said it would aim to lower migration to 160,000 through cracking down on Go8 universities in Sydney and Melbourne that enrol the most international students.

Nationals leader David Littleproud has demanded regional universities be allowed to keep enrolling overseas students, whilst calling for the reinstatement of the agriculture student visa.

Professor Verity Firth, vice-president of societal impact, equity and engagement at the University of New South Wales, recently said the government needs to be "careful about going hard on international students," otherwise institutions won't have the funds to cater for economically and culturally diverse students.

"They are revenue raising opportunities for universities, but it's also a really rich and wonderful export industry," she said.

"What is better than to be the country that educates people in our region, [and can watch] all our young people grow and learn alongside each other?

"If that isn't a wonderful industry, I don't know what is. The government is going to have to start realising that, too."

Professor Firth is a member of an implementation committee that will supervise the execution of Universities Accord reforms, which includes needs-based funding for higher needs students.

USyd's annual report also states money has been put aside to rectify casual staff underpayments, estimated to equal $70m, dating back 10 years.

The uni has already paid back $12.75m in wages to nearly 13,000 casuals, and 1.9m in wage repayments were made in 2023, the report says.

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