Enrolments of foreign students in Australian universities are expected to exceed all records in 2000, partly as a result of a substantial growth in new markets.
More than 100,000 fee-paying foreigners will undertake university courses this year, both within Australia and at Australian offshore campuses, which is an overall 16 per cent rise on 1999.
While the traditional Asian markets remain strong, Australian institutions are also attracting increasing numbers from Russia (up 78 per cent in 1999, but from a tiny base), Europe (up 60 per cent), America (up 38 per cent) and China (up 31 per cent).
The number of students studying on campus in Australia grew by 12 per cent last year while offshore student numbers increased by almost 30 per cent. More than 70,000 foreigners are expected to enrol for courses in Australia this year, with a further 30,000 undertaking their studies at offshore campuses of Australian universities.
Another 5,000 overseas students will study through online or other flexible delivery arrangements. Most Australian universities now offer some form of distance or online education, and many have established campuses outside the country.
Foreign students are expected to contribute more than A$3.5 billion (Pounds 1.3 billion) to Australia's economy this year, while their fees will boost university coffers by at least A$120 million.
The buoyant market for Australian universities is in sharp contrast to that facing British universities.
The British Council revealed earlier this month that the higher education sector had suffered an 11 per cent slump in overseas student recruitment, after 20 years of strong growth.
Australia issued almost 50,000 visas to foreigners seeking to study at Australian institutions in the six months to December, a 10 per cent rise on the same period for 1998. These were for students planning to study in schools, colleges and universities.
Visas issued to students from Singapore showed a 51 per cent rise, China 34 per cent, Thailand per cent and Malaysia 14 per cent. Almost 2,100 student visas were issued to British nationals, up 33 per cent on 1998.
Many universities last year reported record enrolments of overseas students, with some showing increases of more than 40 per cent compared with 1998. In most cases, and despite the economic downturn in Asia, the number of students from that region taking courses both on and offshore jumped sharply.