In 2019, India emerged as Australia’s prime international student growth market.
As shown in the next chart, whose data comes from the Department of Education, new student enrolments from India surged by 35% in 2019, from 44,900 to 60,700:
While China still remained Australia’s biggest source of international students, new enrolments from China actually declined by 4,300 (-4.0%) in 2019.
Interestingly, the United Kingdom is experiencing a similar boom in Indian students. In 2018-19, student enrolments from India also ballooned by 35%, easily eclipsing all other source nations:
“Visa application numbers indicate that this growth will continue, suggesting that Indian student numbers are set to reach numbers not seen since 2011 in the coming years.”
The number of Indian students studying in the UK has been increasing rapidly since 2017 after a period of decline in 2012 following the closure of the post-study work visa.
However, in 2019, the UK government announced plans to reintroduce the two-year post-study work visa, heralded as a catalyst for the increase in UK Tier 4 sponsored study visas granted last year.
“We know that students in India, and around the world, will be encouraged by the announcement of the new two-year graduate visa route and we are working with the government to ensure that this is implemented as quickly and smoothly as possible,” Stern concluded.
As noted above, changes to the United Kingdom’s post-study working rights are behind the boom in Indian students.
Specifically, the United Kingdom last year matched Australia’s two-year post study work visa, thus making it a more attractive place to study:
The United Kingdom’s visa change has already raised concerns within Australia that Indian students could choose to study in the United Kingdom instead of Australia.
For example, the chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, Phil Honeywood, said the following in September:
Phil Honeywood… said Britain’s reintroduction of a two-year post-study work visa “could be a game changer for a number of markets we have taken for granted”…
International education expert Rahul Choudaha said… “Students will be very likely to switch over to the UK”… He said the British visa would be particularly attractive to students because it offered a pathway to permanent residency.
Honeywood then followed up in October claiming the United Kingdom’s two-year post-study work visa was already diverting Indian students away from Australia:
Anecdotally, we are already hearing that large numbers of students from the subcontinent are switching their study destination intentions from countries such as Australia to Britain.
Therefore, while Indian student numbers are currently booming in Australia, there are strong doubts as to whether this will continue.
The picture is made worse by recent changes by the Department of Home Affairs, which classified Indian student visa applications as “high-risk”.
Under these changes, Indian student visa applicants are now required to demonstrate higher English-language proficiency as well as greater financial capacity, which should weed-out lower quality candidates and slow enrolment growth going forward (other things equal).
Several Australian tertiary institutions have already responded to the Department of Home Affairs’ changes by capping Indian student admissions, in addition to cancelling existing confirmation of enrolments.
Australia’s success in attracting Indian students was built around its relatively generous working rights and permanent residency. It now appears to be losing these competitive advantages.