Australia’s commencements continue to rise

July 22, 2013

Total international student commencements rose by 3.5 per cent in the year-to-date figures for May 2013, according to statistics released by Australian Education International, although the VET sector continues to struggle.

The May 2013 year-to-date data shows 145,751 student commencements, a 3.5 per cent increase compared with 140,776 in the same period last year. Total enrolments stood at 368,078, a decline of 2.4 per cent compared with May 2012, although the drop of around 9,000 students was considerably less than declines in previous years.

The largest export sector, higher education, experienced a 3.5 per cent increase in commencements – rising to 52,781. However, growth was within the postgraduate sector, with a 2.2 per cent rise in postgraduate research degrees and 15.6 per cent in other postgraduate commencements; undergraduate commencements actually declined by 3.8 per cent. The figures suggest that changes ushered in by the Knight Review, including enhanced post-study work rights for postgraduate students, are having a positive impact on this sub-sector.

The vocational education and training (VET) sector continued a downward slide, however, with a 4.9 per cent drop in commencements, and an 11.7 per cent fall in enrolments. The 90,394 students enrolled in the sector represent around 60 per cent of the total in May 2010.

The Elicos sector fared particularly well in the latest data, with a 13.1 per cent increase in commencements, and a 14.5 per cent growth in enrolments. The sector has now experienced nine months of consecutive growth. Vietnam was the most increased commencement market for Elicos schools, with 1,084 more students than the same period last year, while China (+781), Colombia (+720) and Thailand (+648) all provided substantial growth. However, two major markets – Brazil and Saudi Arabia – both recorded declines.

Further welcome news for Australian educators comes in the shape of the Australian dollar, which has fallen 13 per cent in the last three months, standing at US$0.91 at the time of writing. Unfavourable exchange rates were constantly cited by educators as a significant factor in the declines suffered by the sector over recent years.

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