Record commencements for Australia's HE & Elicos

16, February, 2015

Australia’s international education sector saw 17.4 per cent growth in international student commencements in 2014, with a number of records tumbling particularly for the Elicos sector, according to student visa data released by government body Australian Education International (AEI).

International student commencements by sector in Australia, 2011-2014. Source - Australian Education International

The growth equated to 353,704 commencements in 2014 – the largest total since the peak year of 2009 with highest-ever individual sector rates recorded by the higher education, Elicos and non-award segments. There was also 12.3 per cent growth in total enrolments to 589,860 students.

The Elicos sector experienced 19.5 per cent growth in enrolments and 17.2 per cent growth in commencements, representing an additional 15,796 students compared with 2013.

Five of the top 10 Elicos student visa student source markets had a record year of commencements: Thailand, Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and Taiwan. A further six of the top 20 source markets also had highest-ever rates of commencement, and three regions (South East Asia, the Americas, and Southern & Eastern Europe) registered record figures.

China was the largest Elicos student visa source country with 25,214 commencements, while Thailand increased 29 per cent to 9,391 and leapfrogged Brazil to become the second largest sender.

All of the top 20 source markets grew in terms of commencements with the exception of Korea, which declined by 415 students. However, Korea is traditionally not a student visa-based market – in 2013 only 37 per cent of Korean students held student visas, with 63 per cent on visitor or working holiday visas.

Although the AEI data captures only student visa-holding students – usually around 60 per cent of the Elicos sector – English Australia Executive Director, Sue Blundell, told StudyTravel Magazine the figures were a fair reflection of growth across the industry as a whole. “However, feedback from colleges is that the levels of growth vary depending on the extent to which colleges offer academic pathways and, of course, which countries they are successfully recruiting students from,” she said.

In terms of increases by student numbers, India recorded the largest jump of an additional 4,398 students, followed by China providing an extra 4,192 students; both markets were strongly influenced by streamlined visa processing and opportunities for post-study work, said Blundell.

However, Blundell said it was pleasing that the growth was spread across all regions of Australia and different types of student: “A lot of the growth is in markets that are heavily weighted towards academic pathways (China, India, Vietnam), however there is also strong growth from other countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, Italy, Japan and Colombia, which are not university pathway markets.”

The higher education sector accounted for the largest share of international students in Australia, with the 249,990 enrolments representing an 8.5 per cent increase. The VET sector experienced a recovery, with the 20 per cent growth in commencements being the first increase since 2009; there was also an 11.7 per cent rise in total VET enrolments. The secondary schools segment recorded growth of 10.3 per cent in commencements and 3.9 per cent in enrolments.

China remains by far the largest source market overall, with 152,898 students (an 8.4 per cent increase) constituting over a quarter of all international students enrolled in 2014. There was growth of over 20 per cent from India (the second largest source market), Brazil (sixth), Nepal (eighth), Hong Kong (11th), the Philippines (14th) and Taiwan (16th).

Looking ahead, Blundell said, “All the signs are that 2015 will be another good year for the English language sector. Numbers grew strongly in 2014 as a result of the positive policy changes in Australia and some negative changes in other study destinations. Whilst this level of growth will naturally slow, I anticipate that the decline in value of the Australian dollar (predicted to fall even further this year) will stimulate further interest in Australia as quality remains high and costs fall.”

She added that a number of government reviews are expected later this year. “Whilst change can be difficult to manage for both colleges and agents, we anticipate that many of these will be positive changes for both, reducing some of the regulatory red tape and allowing colleges to focus on what they do best – teaching and supporting students.”

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