Overseas student enrolments at Australian universities are recovering from the lingering effects of Asia's economic crisis, according to statistics published this week.
Just under 45,000 new overseas students began higher education studies in Australia in 1999 - up 20.5 per cent on 1998 enrolments and up 350 per cent on a decade ago, when there were fewer than 10,000 students enrolling.
Despite Asia's economic
crisis, the number of foreign
enrolments in higher education
in Australia has risen yearly.
The rate of increase did fall to 11.6 per cent in 1998, the enrolment year after the crisis started. It is now back to the 20 per cent seen from 1995 to 1997.
Overall, overseas students account for 12.1 per cent of Australia's higher education intake this year, up on 10.7 per cent in 1998 and 4.8 per cent a decade ago.
The increase in the number of overseas students, the majority of whom pay their own fees, is revealed in a publication by the higher education division of the department of education, training and youth affairs.
The preliminary report does not show where the overseas students are from, nor does it offer explanation for the increase in their numbers.
But an earlier report by Australian Education International, a government agency, on overseas student statistics for 1998 revealed Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia providing by far the most overseas students in Australian higher education. There has been some concern, however, that the situation in East Timor and hostility towards Australia in Jakarta might affect on future student numbers from Indonesia.
But Fazal Rizvi, pro-vice-chancellor international at RMIT University in Melbourne, which has 1,500 Indonesian students, said he was not worried.
"I don't think the current situation will have any great significance," he said.
"In such circumstances a lot of parents want to move their children out. We found during the financial crisis, numbers went up not down.
"My own view is that we are going through a problem which has a relatively short life. Within a few months things might get back to normal."
The selected preliminary statistics for 1999 also show a slight increase in home students starting university courses - up 0.9 per cent on 1998, following two years of decline.
The data show wide variations between subjects, with big increases in those studying maths and computing, engineering and business, and slumps for education and agriculture. Women now make up 55 per cent of all students studying in Australia.
Students come to Australia to study from 100 countries in all but the country is an especially close destination for students from the Asia-Pacific region.
AEI has emphasised the relative cheapness of travel to and from the region, allowing easier return during vacations and the possibility of family visits during student's courses and for graduation ceremonies.