When it comes to international student enrolments, Australia is a world-beater.
As shown recently by Professor Salvatore Babones, the concentration of international students at Australia’s universities is the highest in the developed world at roughly 2.5 times second-placed United Kingdom and around three times third-placed Canada:
The main driver of Australia’s booming international student enrolments is China, which comprised 11% of total Australian university enrolments in 2017, well above all other developed nations:
The next chart plots the explosive growth in Chinese international student enrolments versus second-placed India and third-placed Nepal:
Since 2013, Chinese international student enrolments across Australia’s education industry ballooned by 120,500 to a record high 254,800. This student growth easily exceeded India (90,700) and Nepal (52,300) over the same period, with total Chinese student enrolments roughly double India’s and four times Nepal’s as at October 2019.
China ($12.1 billion) also accounted for one-third of Australia’s $37.6 billion education exports in 2019, once again easily eclipsing exports from India ($5.5 billion) and Nepal ($2.6 billion):
With this extensive background in mind, the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) CEO, Phil Honeywood, is among those concerned that the Australia’s education export industry could be hard hit by the Chinese coronavirus:
The $15 billion Chinese-student market is under threat as universities and schools lock in emergency plans to protect against the coronavirus, including “self-quarantining”…
The Council for International Students in Australia, meanwhile, warned against using the word “quarantine”, saying it would jeopardise Australia’s position in global education markets and drive future students to other countries…
Chair of the taskforce and chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, Phil Honeywood, said the coronavirus was a threat that went way beyond tourism.
“China is our number one source country for international students. They represent at least a third of a $40 billion a year export market for Australia”…
Mr Honeywood said reputational damage would be widespread domestically…
Yesterday we learned that China’s Ministry of Education had already cancelled all English-language proficiency exams scheduled for February in a bid to contain the outbreak:
The exams include the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
The IELTS test scheduled for Jan. 31 was also called off, according to the ministry.
Noting the prevention and control of the epidemic is the top priority at the present time, the ministry asked for the understanding of test takers and promised to update new test plans based on the progress of epidemic control.
This means that the flow of Chinese enrolments into Australia’s universities will be stemmed, and comes after new enrolments had already fallen by 2.2% in the year to October 2019:
Whereas Chinese student visa applications also fell by 3.3% in the year to June 2019:
While it is still early days, the coronavirus risks bursting the Chinese international student bubble, which was already on a fragile footing.