Australian universities double down on international students

The six year boom in international students has seen enrolment numbers nationally almost double to 712,000 as at June 2019:

This boom has been driven by three primary source nations – China, India and Nepal – who together account for just over half of Australia’s international students:

As documented recently by Associate Professor Salvatore Babones in his research paper for the Centre for Independent Studies, Australian universities’ concentration of international students is unparalleled. Australia has roughly 2.5 times the number of international students per 100,000 population of second-placed United Kingdom and around three times Canada:

With this background in mind, The Australian reports that ongoing strong growth in international student enrolments is offsetting the decline in domestic students at Australia’s universities:

The number of students starting courses in Australian universities grew by 2.3 per cent last year compared with the previous year, the ­latest federal government data shows, but the growth is being supported by international ­students.

Figures for domestic students only show that the number of commencing students fell by 1.3 per cent last year.

The data, released on Monday, also showed that the number of students starting bachelor degree courses last year was 1.1 per cent down on 2017…

The total domestic load at universities (for all enrolled students) fell marginally by 0.1 per cent last year, but for all students was up 3.5 per cent, illustrating that Australian universities are only growing because of increased inter­national students numbers.

Last year, 1,562,520 students (including international students and those studying part-time) were enrolled in higher education.

The concentration of international students was already extreme at 26.7% on average, with Salvatore Babones recommending it be halved to meet world’s best practice:

Measured on a per capita basis, Australia now hosts more international students than any other major country in the world…

No public university in the entire United States even comes close to these concentrations of international students. Only one, the University of California at San Diego, has more than half of the international student concentrations of Sydney, Melbourne, and ANU. If Australian public universities were included in an international student league table alongside American public universities, the Australians would fill all 20 slots at the top of the table and 31 of the top 33.

Which all raises the question: how much is too much?…

If the most successful American public universities are any guide, when it comes to international students, 10 per cent adds diversity to the student body, 15 per cent is the maximum reasonable level, and 20 per cent represents internationalisation gone wild. In Australia, the average level of international students across the entire university system is 26.7 per cent. By any reasonable standard, that’s too high.

Going by these latest enrolment figures, the concentration of international students at Australia’s universities is going to get worse before it gets better.

Unconventional Economist


  1. Providing “average numbers” can actually make things seem better than they are.
    There are plenty of courses (IT and Business, cough) that are at least 75% foreign. At least they were in my experience at Deakin (~20% in the table) & Curtin (~30% in the table).
    Either the Aussies never attend class (entirely possible) or they are concentrated in courses foreigners are less likely to apply to, perhaps Women’s and Whiteness studies!. Outside of Arts degrees I’d say Aussie students are definitely in the minority at Australian universities – it would be interesting to see results broken down by course and delivery method e.g. online vs face to face.

  2. Listened to some [email protected]!t economist on ABC when driving home tonight saying one of the consequences of increase $Aus was O/S student numbers could drop! Boo Hoo? He said it as though that would be an issue! Seriously our entire economy has been stolen by rent seekers everywhere. As an aside can confirm a major Australian Uni Med School in 1st year at least could basically be in Beijing. What are we doing for our kids?

    • Yep pharmacy would be 80 percent as1an too. Just saying .

      Nepal? Hardly the cream of the crop now

    • While I agree that standards are dropping even in medical school in Aus (only 2 out of my class ended up repeating and there were many more of lower standard), international students don’t make a significant proportion of students in med schools in Aus due to funding etc. The only uni that has a lot is UQ who has a larger proportion of US students from Oschner, but they return after two years.

      • Standards of student behaviour have also dropped. Particularly with local students who are overly entitled and argumentative whenever their behaviour is questioned.
        A small proportion of them think they can treat facilities etc. as if they are at home which in turn emboldens other well meaning students to do the same thing.
        Academic and general staff, while having responsibilities have little to no real authority.
        Staff are also wary of potential student complains. Unless students really cross the line on what is acceptable behaviour all staff can really do is ask them to stop, (nicely) and call Security if they see fit.
        Security staff are also greatly restricted in what they can do.
        It is not uncommon for students to be talking in lectures, zoning off while on their mobile phones, bringing fast food into Library spaces and so on.
        Meanwhile, the upper echelons of management prefer to be blissfully ignorant and act as if all students are fair, reasonable and conscientious because to do otherwise would threaten the idealised image that they wish to convey.

  3. The vast majority are not genuine students.
    They are third world adult (often very mature adult 30 years plus ) migrant guestworkers on a visa alibi.

    ‘Enrollments’ aren’t the full picture.
    A number are enrolled in multiple part time course. A large number aren’t enrolled at all.

    The numbers are: (DHA March 2019)

    712,000 foreign students & partners.
    ▫️615,000 on a primary applicant visa 4 year stay often up to 9 years with visa and COe churn.
    ▫️58,000 as ‘partners’ on a secondary visa with full work rights and no English test
    ▫️39,000 on special, scholarship & DFAT visas.
    => 712,000

    A 90% concentration in Sydney or Melbourne.
    Massively congesting both cities.

    75% or 534,000 work illegally (Syd Uni & UTS study)

    They only pay $8.3 billion in yearly fees – that money was earned here – cash in hand or fake ID
    So the entire industry is not ‘an export’.
    They pay little or no tax – cash in hand, Fake ID, fake timesheets, cash back or ABN labour ring fraud.

    They create Australian unemployed of over 500,000 costing the Australian taxpayer over $9.3 billion.
    So on the simplest primary measure – the entire foreign student industry is economically negative.

    They lower wages for all other Australians, esp our youth & mature age – by a factor of some -7% costing tens of billions.
    They lower Australian gdp per Capita by a factor of over -4%.

    They have destroyed Australia education, now fallen 10 places globally.
    The courses are nonsense.
    8 year old English courses dressed up as certification.
    14 year old high school courses with ‘diplomas’ but no international recognition:
    All free online or available in their home country.
    Segregated university level campuses with systemic cheating and fraud.

    The vast majority of foreign students are third world poor – who live illegally in very high density cash in hand bunk share in low level established Australia housing – typically foreign owned for the cash goldmine.

    Creating a housing bubble and major housing affordability contention and high living costs for Australians.
    And resulting in mass homelessness for Australians with over 160,000 Australian permanent homeless and another 360,000 seeking affordable housing.
    Their remittances back to their agent procurer and families now exceeds $6 billion.

    Again not an export industry – but importation of third world poverty and migrant guestworkers to be trafficked in to work and live illegally in a foreign criminal run cash economy within Australia.
    And the money flows out – not in.

    The Australian foreign student progression into a high income professional vocation is perhaps the most damming statistic of all.

    It’s only 3.9% (Migrant Pathways A Decade On Report and also the later Productivity Commission- foreign students not a suitable or skilled PR intake 2016).

    That’s right – 96% of the foreign students fail to ever achieve an average income or gain a professional vocation either in Australia or their home country.

    They aren’t here to be educated.

    It’s the world’s most economically & socially destructive migrant trafficking program -.with the Australian Education industry openly prostituting itself to provide third world unskilled migrant guestworkers a visa alibi.

    • It’s just one long visa rort.The vast majority of community information (dob-ins) in relation to visa fraud concern Indians (manly Punjabi = Sikhs). The have led the figures since wide scale rorting began in 2007 (biggest visa architecture fuck up in immigration history) The ABF has neither the skills or the investigators to really do anything about the fraud. Meanwhile, the same rorters are undercutting tradesmen, not paying award wages, working cash in hand and not paying tax.

  4. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Good on universities doing whatever it takes to boost profits. That’s what they are there for.

    • the students are innovative too – many of the ladies from China have creative ways of earning pocket money when they’re far from home.

  5. I thought previous headlines said that the Chinese student boom was over and screws had been tightened right down on Indian students….

    I guess that was quite wishful by the authors and, like I said, they are going to keep coming.

    It’s good, because we have a severe rickshaw skills shortage.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      I’d love to see loads of rickshaws scurrying through our cities especially in those lame tight laneways in Melbourne. I miss the vibe of rickshaws you get in the great Asian cities and the patter patter patter of millions of motorbike like vehicles. I’d love all that to end up here. So much vibrancy in all that stuff.

      • The homeless are there to act as stepping stones on rainy days to be used to avoid getting your feet wet.

  6. – total number of students in USA include around 150k of students on OPT (a year long work permission after graduation)
    – majority of foreign students at public universities (and many private) in USA are masters and Phd students
    – very few foreign students are accompanied with spouses who are not studying because spouses have no work rights
    – majority (55%) study in STEM/computer science and business fields with less than 5% studying English
    – foreign student new enrollments have been falling over the last couple of years
    – 60 percent relied on personal and family funding, and another 6 percent primarily used foreign government or university aid

    • We should not have any work rites for so called foreign students or their partners or for their sprogs to clog up our schools

      • Lol, it’s all by design: Scummo and his crony mates want as many warm bodies as possible on this bit of dirt — more bodies equals more GeeDeePee, and means more credit for ‘sound economic management’.

        Yes, it’s a giant fraud and average strayan is clueless — they have swallowed every lie the gubbermint has told them. When you’re that stupid you get what you deserve.

  7. Measured on a per capita basis, Australia now hosts more international students than any other major country in the world

    Ah, I think I see your problem, Mr Babones.

  8. They are planning to build a new University campus in the Darwin CBD exactly for this purpose:

    “A new education and civic precinct, including a new Charles Darwin University city campus, will transform the city centre, attracting more international students to Darwin, boosting retail activity and bringing vibrancy to the CBD.”

    • So it looks like Darwin will be the first Western capital to have a demographic majority population of Chinese colonists.

        • it’s the capital of the Northern territory and is strategically located, a big win for China’s colonisation program.

          • strategically located? Somerset is strategically located, Darwin is end of the world

            what would Singapore, Panama, Egypt or Gibraltar say about Darwin’s strategic location …. LOL

  9. thefatgeneralMEMBER

    The nepal stats are scary – goes to show once the agents/existing family etc are over here then the numbers can be staggering. Nepal only has 30million people – if even one of the larger indian states (for example) had a similar rate of enrolment we could easily see overall int student numbers double from here.

  10. “They’re not sending their best…”

    None of the students coming here are going to be much chop. You’re not attracting the next CEO of google to Australia, you’re getting students and immigrants with an Australian mentality, where the dream (if they get beyond delivering for uber eats) is living in Tarneit and negatively gearing a couple of dumps in Point Cook and Wyndam Vale.

    • @marked64 Dan Andrews has declared Tarneit as an Indian Cultural centre….pretty much says it all.