Across Australia enrolments are up 9.5 per cent, with an extra 73,256 students enrolled at CRICOS institutions. Commencements also increased 6.8 per cent, with an additional 25,600 students commencing studies on the same point last year.

The August data presents a much more reliable point in time data analysis than July, where semester two commencement dates can fluctuate between end July and start August.

The market has corrected: July data showed overall HE commencements in NSW down 8.71 per cent, but this has corrected in August, with HE up 1.5 per cent YTD. This is due to some institutions, including the University of Sydney, commencing second semester in August.

This will be a relief for many in NSW but even with growth, demand appears to be slowing.

For example, while China commencements in NSW HE is part of the correction they are still down 3.8 per cent, compared to YTD ’18, – that’s 866 student commencements.

In NSW, India is up 15.1 per cent in Higher Ed and 113.9 per cent in VET.  All up, India commencement in NSW grew by 31.1 per cent, an extra 3429 commencements. Other notable markets for NSW are Nepal up 10.6 per cent or 1600 commencements in all sectors. The Philippines is up 84.4 per cent or 1652 commencements (all sectors). Colombia grew 25 per cent or 1016 overall commencements. However, Thailand is down 12 per cent or 775 commencements across all sectors and Brazil declined 14 per cent in ELICOS, or 638 commencements.

But trends continue:  Demand for Victorian schools continues to slide –  July numbers were down  -15.6 per cent, continuing in August with a 16.1 per cent decline meaning 484 less students commenced. China is down 29.2 per cent or 519 commencements.

In contrast, Queensland HE continues to grow. July was up 16.1 per cent with August increasing 14.9 per cent meaning an additional 2833 students commenced in the state’s higher education system.

Starts by Chinese students were up 11.4 per cent 846, Indian commencers were up 45.4 per cent, the Philippines was up 85.7 per cent (132 commencements) however Malaysia was down 17 per cent (99 student commencements).

In SA, HE growth rate was remarkably consistent, up 18.39 per cent YTD July and 18.4 per cent YTD  August. VET accelerated again. July data showed a 38.6 per cent increase in commencements, with August at 43.5 per cent.

WA Higher Ed stabilises – July was up 23.08 per cent and August 22.6 per cent.

TAS VET is still a success story  – growing 77.8 per cent in July YTD and 78 per cent in August.

NT VET is still up and up big. July’s increase was 111.7 per cent and August was 108.3 per cent.

But the ACT can’t take a trick. Overall it is down 15.1 per cent, down in HE 10.3 per cent, down in schools 28.7 per cent, down in ELICOS 50.6 per cent and down in non-award enrolments 41.1 per cent. The only ACT increase is up VET, up 13.1 per cent.

The ACT situation must be ringing alarm bells with overall commencements down 1361. In the HE market, China is down 599 commencements and Indonesia is down 40 commencements. Some 40 fewer students from China started in schools, with 514 fewer starting in ELICOS. Not even the non-award sector can escape – down 77.6 per cent from China or 222 commencements. All-in-all across the ACT, commencers from China are down 26.5 per cent or 1412 commencements.

Eyes on China:  Demand is slowing, but it is not as bad as the July numbers indicated.

In July, there was a 7.5 per cent downturn –somewhat corrected in August, but Chinese commencements are still down 4 per cent (4337 students) across the nation.

The big hits happened in schools, down 20.7 per cent (1123 commencements), ELICOS down 15.9 per cent (3631 commencements) and the non-award sector down 10.3 per cent (1042 commencements). VET is up 22.9 per cent (2139 commencements) and HE is stable, down 1.1 per cent, or 680 commencements.

By state declines have been felt by NSW -2.6% (1033 commencements) , VIC- 6.8% (2523 commencements) and ACT -26.5% (1412 commencements). QLD, SA and WA have been close to last year’s mark while TAS and the NT have seen some growth of 14.7% (303 commencements) and 35.5% (44 commencements) respectively.

India Grows: The headline growth story is India, up 35.3 per cent year on year, bringing commencements to 60,693 commencements. There is growth across all sectors, however HE (28 per cent (7898 commencements) and VET (55 per cent, t7247 starts) are where the big lifts occurred NSW is up 31.1 per cent  (VET 114 per cent, HE 15.1 per cent)

Victoria  is up 35.2 per cent (VET up 55.2 per cent, HE up 26.65 per cent)

QLD up 42.8 per cent (VET up 49 per cent, HE up 45.4 per cent)

SA up 56.9 per cent (VET up 58.2 per cent, HE up 56.8 per cent)

WA up 14.8 per cent (HE up 32.5 per cent, VET down 7.5 per cent)

Tasmania up 73.2 per cent (VET up 82.8 per cent, HE up 70.8 per cent)

Norther Territory up 67.2 per cent (VET up 205.6 per cent, up HE 37.2 per cent)

ACT up 23.4 per cent (VET up 36.4 per cent, HE up 10.9 per cent).

Saudi numbers increase a bit:  In July Saudi students returned to Australia, with an additional 1286 (62.1 per cent) students commencing. August (post all semester two starts) confirms this. To date there are 3,557 Saudis commencers, that is 1323 up on YTD 2018, a 59.9 per cent increase. Some 819 are HE bound (up 78.3 per cent) and 482 of these are in VIC HE up 140.1 per cent).

Thai VET students decline: In what is usually a fairly dependable market, Thailand has nationally and across all sectors has declined -6.9 per cent or 810 commencements. Most sectors are on par with YTD 2018 figures except for VET  which is down 13.1 per cent (812 commencements). NSW is hardest hit is NSW, down 13.5% or 569 commencements. Victoria is also  lower,  -9.6 per cent or 125 commencements.

Regional scheme rolls on: For a full analysis of the regional scheme and recent announcement of Perth and the Gold Coast being declassified “metro” to take advantage of it please see yesterday’s feature here.

Dirk Mulder is an international education business developer, strategist and market analyst. Contact him @


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education