The higher education sector is again the standout education exporter, recording a 16 per cent boost in international student enrolments in the first two months of this year.
Figures to be released today by the federal government show international student enrolments across all sectors rose by 12.6 per cent in the two months to February.
The data, which gives the first reliable look at first semester 2018 enrolments of international students, shows that 542,054 students were enrolled in Australian onshore courses in the first two months of this year, 303,000 of them in higher education.
Another 131,000 were in vocational education and training; 60,000 were in English colleges; and 21,000 were in schools.
The continued growth points to yet another strong year for education exports, which last year rose by 23 per cent to be worth $32.2 billion.
Contrary to some expectations, Chinese student numbers have continued to grow strongly in the first two months of this year.
Chinese higher education enrolments rose 20 per cent to 119,000.
The number of Chinese students commencing courses grew even faster, by 22 per cent, pointing to continued strength in the number of Chinese international students enrolled in higher education.
Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said the record-breaking number of international students choosing to study in Australia was important for the nation’s ties to the world as well as to national income.
“Australia has set its sights on becoming a powerhouse in international education over the past decade and quality has been the foundation of that success,” she said.
“We have almost doubled enrolments over the past decade and built international education into Australia’s third largest export sector. This supports Australian communities, jobs, regional economies and our relationships in the world.
“These half a million international students will become tomorrow’s global leaders — returning home as informal ambassadors for Australia and extending our nation’s worldwide networks in business, diplomacy and politics.”
The proportion of Chinese stu- dents grew to 32 per cent in January and February this year. Indian students were the next largest contingent with market share of 12 per cent. Other countries are growing strongly, even if from a much lower base.
Enrolments from India were up 16 per cent and those Nepal were up 57 per cent.
In the promising markets of Latin America, enrolments from Brazil were up 26 per cent and from Colombia 29 per cent.
International Education Association of Australia chief executive Phil Honeywood said numbers of students from Brazil, as well as other parts of Latin America, were increasing because of education quality, climate and Australian’s relaxed approach.
“They love the fact Australians are very flexible. We are not rigid, they like the way lectures and tutorials are run,” he said, speaking from Brazil where he is attending an international education conference. “But they also want quality because they have free higher education here.”
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia was “uniquely positioned to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive international education market”.
“Students know we have some of the best education institutions in the world. They know how much we value the diversity of experiences and views they bring with them, and they know the quality of living and opportunities here are second to none,” he said.