Australia’s international students numbers are off the charts


According to monthly visa data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a record net 502,000 visa holders (excluding tourists) arrived in Australia in the year to July, with student visas accounting for 297,000 of these arrivals:

Net visa arrivals

The Department of Home Affairs has released data on temporary visas, which shows that a record 2,554,201 temporary visas were on issue in July 2023:

Temporary visas were on issue

This means that around one in 10 people in Australia currently are a temporary migrant.

The explosion in temporary visa holders has been led by international student numbers.

The next chart shows that there were a record 654,870 temporary student visas on issue in Australia in July 2023, up around 300,000 from a year earlier and around 100,000 higher than the pre-pandemic peak:

Temporary student visas are on issue

Moreover, the number of temporary graduate visas on issue ballooned to a record 197,000 in July, up around 100,000 year-on-year:

Temporary graduate visas on issue

This means that there were around 852,000 people in Australia on a student or graduate visa in July 2023, meaning that around one in 30 people in Australia were on either one of these visas.

Indian students, who make up 16% of those studying onshore, increased by 29%, while Nepalese students, who make up 9% of the total, increased by 21%.

There was also a significant increase in student numbers from Colombia and the Philippines, which increased by 147% and 100%, respectively, albeit from a lower basis.


Although Chinese students continue to make up the largest cohort of overseas students in Australia, accounting for 21% of the total, their numbers declined by 2% in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year.

The numbers are so ridiculous that even immigration influencer Abul Rizvi says the “government needs a plan to manage this”:

Abul Rizvi Tweet

International Education Association of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood was more blunt warning the sector should “take a reality check” on the strong growth numbers.

“History shows that whenever we have a massive influx of international students we invariably get community pushback and a risk to quality outcomes”, he said.

This record inundation of international students has been engineered by the Albanese Government, which has implemented a range of immigration policies designed to ramp numbers, including:

  • Extending post-study graduate visas by two years, in turn making student visas more attractive.
  • Committing $42 million and 600 staff to clear the so-called “one million visa backlog” and rubber stamping as many visa applications as possible.
  • Raising the permanent non-humanitarian migrant intake by 30,000 to 190,000, thereby increasing the chances of temporary migrants gaining permanent residency.
  • Approving 66,000 “pandemic event visas” and waiting too long to close the rort down.
  • Prioritising offshore visa applicants over onshore.
  • Removing a requirement that international students acknowledge that they are not applying for a student visa to migrate to Australia.
  • Signing migration agreements allowing Indian students and workers to live in Australia long-term.

The results are plain to see with Australia suffering the worst rental crisis in modern history, widespread infrastructure crush-loading, and a per capita recession.

Thanks Albo. Great to see Labor taking care of the working class (not!),

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.