Australia’s international student exports explode

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released its International Trade: Supplementary Information, Financial Year, 2018-19 report, which includes interesting data on Australia’s booming international student trade.

According to the ABS, total education ‘exports’ soared by $5.0 billion in 2018-19 to a record high $37.3 billion (see next chart).

Expenditure on goods and services by international students rose by $2.9 billion to $21.4 billion, whereas fees from international students increased by $2.1 billion to $15.9 billion.

Goods and services expenditure accounted from 57% of total education exports in 2018-19, whereas fees paid by international students accounted for 43% of exports (see next chart).

China continues to dominate Australia’s international student trade, although second-placed India is catching up (see next chart).

In 2018-19, Chinese education exports increased by $1.0 billion to $12.1 billion, whereas Indian education exports rose by $1.7 billion to $5.5 billion. Nepal – Australia’s third biggest international student market – also experienced $1.0 billion growth in education exports to $2.6 billion in 2018-19.

Accordingly, China’s share of education exports retraced to 32% from 34% the previous year, whereas India’s share rose from 12% to 15%, and Nepal’s from 5% to 7% (see next chart).

As noted previously, MB believes that Australia’s education exports are severely overstated by the ABS, and that the true export figure is significantly lower.

Nevertheless, the strong growth is undeniable and correlates perfectly with the surge in international student enrolments:

International students are being milked for all they are worth.

Latest posts by Leith van Onselen (see all)


  1. $37b Export lol
    how much money international students and their officially full time working spouses make in Australia?

    700k of them earning on average let say … 35k would be … $25b

    • Agreed. Time to kill the ‘export’ myth. Plus there is the negative impacts on infrastructure, living standards, wages etc. Australia overall, is at a lose with these foreign students.

    • Agreed. Are all those part-time postgrad IT / engineering / business student Uber drivers an “export” as well? No, didn’t think so!

  2. We could be manufacturing high value equipment but instead we sell residency to people who we hope may go on to take out a huge mortgage to buy a vastly overinflated home. Extraordinary times indeed.

  3. So growth in our economy is dependent on further increases in teenage students arriving from three countries where the number of teenagers is falling and guaranteed to fall further for at least the next decade. Seems sustainable.

  4. Why is it an export, if ultimately, no extra money is put into the economy for the service, if the service is paid by Australian wages?

    Time to scrap working rights for foreign students and their spouses.