Professor Salvator Babones, author of last year’s seminal report on Australian universities’ unhealthy reliance on Chinese international students, has provided updated data on the elite Group of Eight (Go8) universities’ Chinese exposure.
This data shows that Sydney’s universities are the most exposed to a collapse in Chinese international student enrolments:
Across all of Australia’s higher education institutions, Chinese students account for 37.3% of international students and more than 10% of all students. These figures only count students who are actually residents of mainland China; students from Hong Kong and Chinese citizens who are resident in Australia are not included. China truly is, as a 2019 Four Corners documentary put it, Australia’s international student ‘cash cow’…
The table below presents best-available estimates of Chinese student numbers and revenues at Australia’s G8 universities plus the University of Technology Sydney. Only columns (1), (2), (6), and (7) are exact figures; all other columns are best estimates based on publicly available data…
The University of Sydney and UNSW lead the country in numbers of Chinese students, with roughly 17,000 and 16,000, respectively. Both universities depend on Chinese student tuition for as much as one-quarter of their total revenues from all sources. Other highly exposed universities include UTS and (probably) Melbourne. Chinese students account for more than 13% of total enrolments at all G8 universities except UWA. For comparison, the most China-exposed public university in the entire United States, the University of Illinois, enrols 5,845 Chinese students, who make up 11.3% of its student body. Considering this concentration to be extremely risky, in 2017 the university prudently took out insurance against any sudden decline.
Australians don’t even have an exact accounting of the number of Chinese students attending their universities. Unlike US, UK, and Canadian universities, Australian universities (and their regulators) do not routinely publish statistics that break down international student enrolments by country of origin. Nineteen distinct sources had to be consulted to assemble the picture presented in the table below, and even so, the picture is incomplete. Good data is the first requirement for good policy. Australia’s universities and their regulators should implement international best practice and start providing routine, detailed statistics on international student numbers.
Professor Babones’ findings are broadly supported by the Department of Education’s international student database, which shows that New South Wales universities (64,000) had the highest number of Chinese student enrolments in 2019, followed by Victoria’s (54,000):
Therefore, Australia’s two major jurisdictions are the most exposed to any collapse in Chinese students resulting from the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus).