Declines but positive signs in 2012 for Australia

May 29, 2013

The number of international students at Australia's Elicos schools declined by seven per cent in 2012, but a one per cent growth in student weeks as well as increases in several source markets have given the industry cautious cause for optimism.

A total of 124,603 students commenced English language programmes in the country last year, according to the English Australia ELICOS Industry Statistics Report for 2012. The total economic impact of these students was valued at AUS$1.459 billion (US$1.396 billion), a slight decline on the previous year, but average spend per student was up to AUS$11,709 (US$11,207).

As previously reported, the number of student visa students in the Elicos sector increased during 2012. However, students on all other visa types, including visitor visa and working holiday visas, declined. Subsequently, student visa holders accounted for 61 per cent of all Elicos students, compared with 54 per cent in 2011.

Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, said, " The Australian Elicos industry has now seen six consecutive months of growth in student visa holder numbers (Sept 2012 to March 2013) which has resulted in many providers expressing cautious optimism regarding the rest of 2013. "

The growth in student visa students has also fuelled an increase in average study period, rising from 11.2 weeks to 12.3 weeks. Student visa holders studied for an average of 16.3 weeks. Blundell said, " Anecdotal evidence seems to show that the growth has been in pathway programmes, reflecting the appeal of post-study work rights and the impact of streamlined visa processing. "

In terms of markets, the top three recorded the largest declines: China (-3,824), South Korea (-2,726) and Japan (2,157), with the smaller drop from Japan seeing it leapfrog Korea into second place.

Blundell said some Chinese students may have switched to alternative destinations such as the USA, but added, " Despite student numbers being down, the average course length increased, leading to an increase in the number of weeks. " Meanwhile, Japanese declines were in the tourist segment, while the more serious study segment was growing in response to Japan's current focus on developing human capital, she said.

The largest increases came from Colombia (+1,273), Italy (+502) and Spain (+417), while Thailand, Russia and Vietnam also registered increases. Blundell said Australia's strong economy, job opportunities, strong currency and student visa work rights were an attraction for students from southern Europe.

A full Market Analysis feature on Australia will appear in the July issue of Study Travel Magazine, including school and student surveys, analysis from schools and an interview with Blundell.

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