Chinese defy warnings and flock to Aussie unis
Chinese students have defied unspecified ‘‘safety’’ warnings from their government amid fears of undue Chinese influence, flocking to Australia in larger numbers this year than ever before.
Official figures to be released today show 173,000 Chinese students enrolled in Australian universities, colleges and schools in the first two months of 2018, 18 per cent more than in the same period last year.
In total, 542,000 students from more than 190 countries have enrolled in Australia so far this year, according to the latest data. This is 13 per cent more than for the same period last year, indicating yet another boost is on the way for education exports, which were valued at $32.2 billion in 2017.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the new figures showed Australia was “on track to continue our recordbreaking run of growth in international education”. He said education exports supported about 130,000 jobs in tourism, retail and hospitality, on top of those in universities, colleges and
schools. The continued growth in Chinese student numbers is a relief to universities which feared political tension between the two countries, as well as two official Chinese warnings to students about safety concerns in Australia, could turn them away.
The prestige Group of Eight universities are particularly reliant on Chinese student fees to fund research programs.
Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson said the continued growth in student numbers showed that “despite the current political rhetoric outside of our sector, international students, particularly those from China, continue to see Australia, and importantly the Group of Eight, as a high-quality destination”.
But others point out that when the Chinese safety warnings were made in December and February, it was too late for students to withdraw from enrolment and politi- cal tension could still have repercussions down the track.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the government’s international education strategy, which brought a “whole of government” approach to the sector, was instrumental in forging the growth.
“We won’t make the same mistakes as the previous Labor government with their erratic changes to student visas that took years for our international education sector to recover,” he said.
Student numbers from other countries also grew strongly in January and February. Enrolments from India, the secondlargest student source, grew 16 per cent to 63,000, while Nepal enrolments went up an astonishing 57 per cent to 29,000 to make it the third-largest student source.
Industry observers say the chaos of the 2015 Nepal earth- quake has caused more Nepalese families to send their children to Australia for education.
Student numbers from Latin America are also rising strongly with Brazil up 26 per cent to 19,000 and Colombia up 29 per cent to 12,000.
International Education of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood said part of Australia’ success was due to other countries toughening visa rules for students.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham meets international students at Spring Hill in Brisbane yesterday