International students love Australia. For years, the country’s seen a record number of foreigners arrive to study at its higher education institutions, which welcome them and the fees they pay with open arms. At the University of New South Wales, for example, one in four students come from abroad.
Now, one of its top universities has recently announced that they will no longer increase international student numbers.
The Australian National University, located in Canberra, said last month they will no longer grow their number of international students but will instead maintain them at the current level.
According to ABC, Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt said the university had reached a size “which I think is appropriate”.
“The university is at a size of roughly 20,000 full-time students and so we’re not intending to grow, both international or domestic.”
“If we get any bigger, we will not be better,” he said.
This survey follows a report last week which found that Australia has most likely surpassed the UK as the second favourite study destination for international students. International higher education student commencements grew from 187,000 in 2013 to 319,000 in 2018.
It’s a growth that has become more controversial in recent years. While stakeholders hail the benefits they receive from a more diverse student body, other segments of society have condemned it for letting foreign forces interfere with academic freedom and for the disproportionate number of students from a select few countries.
ANU’s decision presents another downside: Schmidt’s comments appear to suggest that a large international student population will impair university quality.
A survey by ABC showed this isn’t a view shared by others in the elite Group of Eight, however.
The University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne have no plans to cap their international enrolments at current levels.
UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement, Rongyu Li, said in a statement: “There is no plan to cap international student numbers at current levels, but we are striving for greater diversification of source countries, discipline offerings and associated new academic offerings.
A spokesperson for the University of Melbourne said “demand from international students for the University of Melbourne’s world-class degrees remains high, as it has been in recent years”.
“The University anticipates that the present strong demand from international students will continue in the future”.
Like ANU, UNSW plans to keep numbers as they are. Other universities – University of Sydney, Monash, University of Western Australia and University of Adelaide – declined to respond to the survey.
Andrew Norton, Higher Education Director at the Grattan Institute, said the more prestigious universities have received “very serious money” from international students, who preferred to enrol at such institutions.
“Not only are they getting large numbers, they charge the highest fees,” Norton said.
“It will only stop if the demand dries up, or if there’s some policy change that means it’s harder for international students to come to Australia.”