By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

It has been a good news week for international education providers in Australia, with the full-year student visa statistics from government agency Australian Education International (AEI) confirming a return to positive growth for the industry.

Across all sectors, there was a 9.3 per cent rise in commencements compared with 2012, and, importantly, a 2.6 per cent increase in enrolments (the total number of students). Within this, the university sector posted an increase in enrolments of 0.4 per cent, the first positive return for a few years.

Undoubtedly the star performer though was the Elicos (English language) sector, with increases in commencements and enrolments of 21 per cent and 20.1 per cent respectively. As Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, pointed out to Study Travel Magazine, growth was across the board (19 of the top 20 source countries rose), meaning the reasons behind the boom were wide-ranging and more complex than merely growth of pathways for the university sector.

Particularly welcome were strong performances from Taiwan and Korea, the latter coming at a time when the Korean outbound market was struggling in general. Although the data only covers student visa students (around half of Elicos students), the signs are that 2013 was a great year overall.

And English Australia recently unveiled an interesting and forward-thinking document aimed at preparing members for future scenarios. The four potential situations consider a range of forces acting on the sector, and range from the bleak (lack of coordination, heavy focus on risk, shrinking number of providers with similar programmes) to the emphatically positive (strong alignment, sharing of best practice and a flexible approach to innovation).

It will be interesting to observe which of the four outlines proves to be the most accurate over the next few years, and it is welcome to see an industry association preparing for future outcomes in this way.

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