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City of Sydney engages UTS to research into International Students’ wellbeing in the areas of safety and security, housing, discrimination and work.  

In 2011 there were 100,000 International Students living in the city and metropolitan areas of Sydney. There certainly is many more now. These numbers mean that Sydney is the top city in Australia for International Students, more than any other city in the country.

International education is Australia’s largest service-based export industry, contributing A$18.2 billion to the economy in 2015. Because Sydney is the top destination, the state of NSW got the biggest chunk of that money, around A$6.7 billion.

Numbers from the research show that International Students contributed A$1.6 billion to the local economy and also very importantly, created around 4,000 local jobs. That means every International Student out there is making a direct positive impact in the economy.

So no wonder the City of Sydney is interested. They engaged the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to conduct research with International Students living and studying in Sydney, to find out about their wellbeing and try to determine what factors affect such wellbeing positively or negatively. The research focused on the areas of:

  • safety and security;
  • housing;
  • discrimination;
  • work.


The City of Sydney says one of the reasons for engaging UTS to undertake the research was that the City of Sydney recognises that international students are an important part of the City’s diverse community”, but it also cites the reason that the City has identified the wellbeing of international students as a key priority area both culturally and economically”.

The “economic” part of the reason is clear from the numbers mentioned above, but the “cultural” part is more subtle, for International Students at least. Not all International Students can see this, but every single one of them is an active contributor to what the research calls “Sydney’s Superdiversity”. Sydney is super diverse because it has 71,903 residents who were born overseas (on the last count) and of which 50,680 speak a language other than English.

This superdiversity is one of the reasons Sydney is so vibrant and lively, and such a great place to live. By undertaking the research the City has shown that it is not only acknowledging the economic impact that International Students make, but also that it can see the enormous cultural benefit they bring to the city.

But what does wellbeing mean? Do they want to know if International Students are having fun and partying hard?

No, the city is more worried about serious matters, having used the definition of wellbeing as per the WHO (World Health Organisation), which established that “Wellbeing … comprises the synergy of three outcomes together: physical, mental, and social health”.

UTS interviewed 603 students from March and July 2016 and asked questions in relation to their mental and social health (defined by the WHO as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community).

The research turned out some interesting numbers and findings:

  • The 603 International Students interviewed were from 74 different countries of birth;
  • The top 3 countries of birth were India, China and Brazil respectively;
  • International students regard Sydney as a desirable destination for study but they find the city expensive
  • Public transport is expensive and can be difficult to access
  • Finding suitable housing and accommodation is challenging, particularly on first arrival
  • Although accommodation is expensive, international students consider Sydney to be a desirable place to study and live
  • International students are concerned about financial security
  • Some International students are vulnerable to exploitation by employers
  • A number of international students need to work in order to afford to live and study in Sydney
  • Sydney is generally considered a safe place to live for international students
  • International students feel they can engage with Police
  • Socially, international students are integrating well within their own networks
  • International students want to connect with local communities
  • The wellbeing of international students in Sydney is generally good
  • International students can be susceptible to alcohol and gambling issues
  • Sexual and mental health awareness and education could be increased amongst international students
  • Large proportions of students depend on part-time work to support accommodation and living costs and therefore could be at risk of exploitation.


If you want to read the research in full, you can get it here.

Erica Carneiro
Co-Founder, Director and Registered Migration Agent 0532487

Source: The Wellbeing of International Students in the City of Sydney, July 2016. Prepared for the City of Sydney – UTS IPPG, Institute for Public Policy and Governance