Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has called for an emergency intervention by the Commonwealth to help the ‘ailing international education sector’ when the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meets.


Ms Bligh has described the Australian international education sector as being in a state of crisis and that without Commonwealth assistance, the job security of the 17,000 Queenslanders the sector employs directly and indirectly will be in doubt.


Ms Bligh said that there was a need to revisit the changes in 2009 to visa requirements and the Skilled Occupations List which impacts on vocational training and English language courses.


“We should also be offering more opportunities for graduates in engineering and other disciplines to meet the looming skills gap needed for the resources industry," Ms Bligh said.


Ms Bligh said Queensland’s $2.8 billion export market in international education was suffering because of changes to arrangements for student visas and regulation of the international education sector in 2009.


The sector, which enjoyed an average growth rate of 13 per cent for seven years leading up to 2009, has recently begun to suffer a sharp fall in growth.


Ms Bligh said that cooperation was required at a national level to look at the problems facing the international education sector as opportunities.


“The resources boom provides unprecedented employment opportunities for Australian graduates in key disciplines such as engineering, environmental science, metallurgy but also law, hospitality, accounting and management.


“With 38,000 jobs needed in the sector in the next few years, we should consider making targeted offers of working visas for three years to international graduates before they return home," Ms Bligh said.


Ms Bligh said the international education sector had been battling the impacts of negative media reports after assaults on Indian students and renewed competition from the United States and Canadian markets.