As of March 2017, there were 480,092 international students in Australia – a notable 15 percent increase from the same period last year, new government data reveals.
China, India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Nepal each saw increase in the number of its nationals currently studying in Australian universities now, with China showing the biggest growth in numbers. These five countries now make up 54 percent of the total international student cohort in Australia.
“In 2017, Australia hosted a record number of international students as more than 550,000 students from over 190 different nations flocked to our shores,” Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said, as reported by University World News.
“We are on track to see another record year for Australian international education.”
The International Student Data monthly summary is based on data showing students starting their higher education pursuits in the first semester of 2017 and of students commencing full-year vocational courses and training.
International education brought in a record AUD20.3 billion in export income for Australia in 2015/16, an increase of eight percent from the previous year. This makes it the country’s third largest export, behind ore and coal, according to data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics released last November.
In terms of enrollment, there were 520,737 international enrollments in March 2017, the bulk of which were in higher education (54 percent), followed by vocational education and training (VET) (23 percent), English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (Elicos) (14 percent), non-award (six percent) and schools (four percent).
“All education sectors had experienced growth in the number of international students during the first quarter of 2017 – the Elicos sector grew by almost 38 percent, the higher education sector by almost 23 percent and the VET sector by almost 13 percent,” Assistant Immigration and Border Protection Minister Alex Hawke said.
“This is a significant increase compared to the same time in the previous year and symbolises the efforts Australia has undertaken to attract international students.”
The education of international students generates a total AUD22.4 billion (US$16.7 billion) in income for Australia each year, with universities contributing AUD15 billion (US$11 billion) of that to the national economy.
For Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson, the new data shows how Australia’s high-quality university system contributes to the country’s economic well-being. She cites this as one reason why the government’s latest reform package, which slashes funds to universities, must be scrutinised by lawmakers.
“That’s why proposed cuts to university funding have to be considered so carefully by the Parliament. Any erosion in the quality of our higher education sector would diminish both the education of Australian students and jeopardise this enormously important export sector,” Robinson said.
“Quality is our draw-card,” Robinson said. “We must guard it wisely.”