Australia’s international education industry is clearly operating in a parallel universe.
Last last month, the Centre for Independent Studies released an alarming report warning that Australia’s tertiary education system has by far the highest exposure to international students in the world with a per capita intake that dwarfs other developed nations:
Australia ranks third in the world in the number of international tertiary education students, trailing only the United States and the United Kingdom…
Australia has more than twice as many international tertiary education students as eighth-ranking Canada, which has a population 50% larger than Australia’s. Measured on a per capita basis, Australia now hosts more international students than any other major country in the world.
Just when we thought the concentration of international students could not get any more extreme, the Department of Education this week released its enrolment data for the June quarter, which revealed that total international student enrolments hit a record high 712,000:
Turning to the sub-sectors, the explosion in international student enrolments has been driven by both higher education and vocational education and training (VET), whose enrolments have surged by 92% and 113% respectively over the past six years:
The three major sources of international students are all non-English speaking nations, namely China (204,000), India (104,000) and Nepal (52,000). Growth has been extreme for each nation, with Chinese enrolments growing by 96% over the past six years, Indian enrolments growing by 198% over the same period, and Nepalese enrolments ballooning by 428%:
As expected, New South Wales and Victoria dominate Australia’s international student trade, together accounting for 71% of Australia’s enrolments. As shown in the next chart, there were 272,000 international students enrolled in New South Wales as at June 2019 and 232,000 in Victoria:
Both jurisdictions have also experienced explosive growth in international student enrolments of 94% (NSW) and 108% (VIC) over the past six years.
The composition of students differs, however, with New South Wales’ boom driven by both China (78,000) and Nepal (34,000), whose enrolments have surged by 37,000 and 28,000 respectively over the past six years:
By contrast, Victoria’s international student boom has been driven mostly by China (70,000) and India (49,000), whose enrolments have surged by 38,000 and 32,000 respectively over the past six years:
Whichever way you cut it, Australia’s international student boom is unprecedented and world-leading. It also looks like a bubble, given it has been built upon eroded tertiary entry and teaching standards, which are now under the spotlight.