Australian international education earnings reach A$34 billion

Record revenue fuelled by large foreign intakes at the country’s biggest universities

November 1, 2018

Revenue from Australia’s rampant international education industry has ballooned by one-sixth in a year, as overseas students continue their march towards majority status in some of the country’s top universities.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that education exports earned the country more than A$34 billion (£18.8 billion) in the 12 months to September. This represented a 17 per cent increase on the A$29.1 billion netted over the previous year.

The comparison post-dates a change to the ABS methodology that added 19 per cent to the industry’s paper value in 2016-17.

The bonanza included earnings of A$9.4 billion between July and September – a record for a single quarter, and 21 per cent higher than revenues during the equivalent period of 2017.

The figures suggest that signs of a slowdown in growth from the crucial Chinese market are yet to have any impact on the income of an industry riding high on a relatively weak dollar, favourable visa and post-study work settings, well-regarded educational institutions and an attractive lifestyle.

Meanwhile, new Education Department figures reflect how universities are relying on overseas students to boost their coffers in the wake of a slowdown in domestic demand for higher education.

People on temporary entry permits represented 25 per cent of commencing higher education students in 2017, up from 20 per cent five years earlier.

They accounted for 43 per cent of new students at the University of New South Wales; 42 per cent at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University; 39 per cent at the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Melbourne; 37 per cent at the University of Queensland and 34 per cent at Monash University.

If Monash’s overseas campuses are factored in, international students represent just under half of the university’s commencing cohort.

Australia’s private universities and colleges have even higher foreign intakes. Temporary visa holders represented 58 per cent of last year’s commencing students at Queensland’s Bond University and 78 per cent at Victoria’s non-university higher education institutions.

At Adelaide’s Torrens University, 37 per cent of commencing students were international.

Across Australia, international enrolments rose 10 per cent last year, compared with 1.5 per cent growth among domestic students.

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