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.

Belinda Robin­son

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