Universities in Australia can no longer rely on increasing numbers of fee-paying students from China to boost their incomes, according to a report.
The number of Chinese students going abroad to study is stabilising, the report says. This is because China's higher education sector is expanding rapidly and students who obtain foreign qualifications are no longer guaranteed a job on their return.
The report says a significant number of Chinese students enrol in foreign universities as a means of immigrating.
Students from the Indian sub-continent have also shown "a high propensity"
to seek permanent resident status in Australia after completing their courses, the report states.
Considerable variations exist between the students who apply to remain in Australia. About 25 per cent of all overseas students who completed their courses in 2002 gained permanent residence visas. But the proportion from China who did so was 38 per cent and the proportion from India was 66 per cent.
The report, commissioned by the recruiting agency IDP Education Australia, was prepared by Bob Birrell, director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University.
He notes that applications from Chinese students for visas to study in Australia levelled out last year and, as a result, the number of students beginning their studies is also likely to stabilise.
In an analysis of data supplied by the Immigration and Education departments, Dr Birrell concludes that changes to immigration rules are unlikely to affect enrolments of students from Australia's traditional markets of Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, or from Europe and North America.
Students applying for permanent residence after completing their courses tend to prefer masters courses, particularly in computing and accounting, his report notes.
This is because these fields offer the cheapest and shortest route to occupational qualifications that satisfy immigration requirements.