Australia records student growth in 2013

17 February, 2014

International student commencements rose by over nine per cent in 2013, while overall overseas enrolments increased by 2.6 per cent, according to full-year statistics just released by government body Australian Education International (AEI).

Source: Tourism Australia

Signalling a further return to health for the international education sector, 302,976 commencements represented a 9.3 per cent increase compared with 2012. The total enrolments stood at 526,932 for 2013, a rise of over 13,000 students.

The higher education sector accounted for the largest share of students, with 95,729 commencements – an 8.1 per cent increase compared with 2012 – and 231,186 enrolments, a slight rise of 0.4 per cent. There was evidence of some stabilisation in the VET sector, where commencements in 2013 declined by only 0.1 per cent, while the total enrolments in the sector were down by 6.4 per cent, less than the 14 per cent drop in 2012.

Overall, China remains comfortably the largest source market with 150,116 students (a 0.4 per cent increase), followed by India, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand. Double digit growth, meanwhile, was recorded by Brazil, Pakistan, Colombia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Italy.

The Elicos sector saw particularly strong growth in 2013, with a commencement increase of 21 per cent and enrolment growth of 20.1 per cent.

Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, welcomed the AEI data. “The first point to make is that after the significant decline we experienced following the industry peak in 2009, we are delighted to see this kind of strong recovery – in fact the numbers of commencing student visa holders is higher than at any time except for the peak years of 2008/09.”

China was again the largest source market for student visa students in the Elicos sector, with 25 per cent of enrolments and 23.8 per cent of commencements. Brazil, driven by the Science Without Borders scholarship programme, regained second place, while strong increases from Thailand saw it move up to third largest source country.

Significantly, all of the top ten source markets, and 19 of the top 20, returned increasing numbers of students in 2013. Blundell said that although recent student visa grant data released by the Department of Immigration indicated strong growth in pathway programmes for higher education, “the fact growth is seen across 19 of the top 20 countries would indicate that the growth is more complex than that”.  She suggested a range of reasons had led to the growth in the language sector, including successful marketing, the implementation of more generous post-study work rights in higher education, more favourable exchange rates and negative factors affecting competitor countries.

After five consecutive years of decline, Korean student visa students in the Elicos sector increased by nine per cent in 2013, while another traditional market, Taiwan, posted further strong recovery with 34 per cent growth. Blundell welcomed the news from two key markets, although cautioned that in 2012 less than half of students from these counties came on student visas.

“English Australia is currently conducting our annual survey to capture non-student visa data (generally 40-50 per cent of total numbers) which will create a more realistic picture as to whether 2013 was a good year or a great year!” Blundell added.  

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