Dirk Mulder explains international student growth – it’s all in VET and it’s all from India

By DIRK MULDER

February 2021 YTD international student data is out (CMM yesterday) and it is very interesting indeed

February figures are for an important month – a year on from the last full month before the Morrison Government closed the borders, (although arrivals from China ceased on 1 February.)

At the top level: Overall education commencements were down 37.9 per cent on Feb 2020 while enrolments were down 16.6 per cent

Higher Ed commencements were down 36.5 per cent with enrolments down 13 per cent.

VET commencements were down 8.8 per cent with enrolments up 0.3 per cent.

Schools commencements were down 51.1 per cent with enrolments down 29.4 per cent.

ELICOS (Visa) commencements are down 68.6 per cent with enrolments down 66.6 per cent.

Non-Award commencements were down 80.6 per cent with enrolments down 65.9 per cent.

 Extraordinary VET enrolments: anomaly or expected? With borders being closed going on 12 months (to the date of this data) surely all sectors would have felt the pain of the pandemic – not so. VET enrolments continued to grow. Albeit they were up by 0.3 per cent but ELICOS and HE would have loved it

So what’s going on? Commencements first. The 8.8 per cent decline seems consistent with other sectors, although not nearly as bad. The next lowest decline being 36.5 per cent.

The countries with the greatest losses (net students declines in commencers) are: Nepal -677 (17.2 per cent drop), Brazil -548 (20.8 per cent drop), Indonesia -431 (27.9 per cent drop), South Korea -420 (21.1 per cent drop), and Philippines -359 (15.7 per cent drop).

At the other end of the spectrum commencements from countries which were up include: India 1,015 (14.3 per cent up), Pakistan 209 (20.9 per cent up), Colombia 172 (8 per cent up), Bangladesh 55 (30.2 per cent up), and Argentina 54 (37.5 per cent up).

VET enrolments were the highlight: Overall they were up 0.3 per cent  – phenomenal in any language.

Student numbers from countries that have declines in overall participation are: China -1755 (13.3 per cent down), South Korea -1,618 (18.6 per cent down), Brazil -1,340 (10.6 per cent down), Philippines – 1,300 (10.5 per cent down), and Nepal -1,286 (6.4 per cent down).

The big contributors to the current student body include: India 9,657 (29.7 per cent up), Colombia 2,008 (24.4 per cent up), Pakistan 1,421 (36.1 per cent up), Sri Lanka 482 (16.4 per cent up) and Bangladesh 325 (42.4 per cent up).

Victoria is the place to be for Indian students in VET: Victoria again fuels the growth in VET from India with state totals being: NSW – Up 2,160 (33 per cent), VIC – Up 4,867 (31.6 per cent), QLD – Up 712 (17.7 per cent), SA – Up 981 (40.5 per cent), WA – Up 540 (24.1 per cent), Taps – Down 54 (-4.8 per cent),  NT – Up 72 (44.7 per cent) and the ACT – Up 379 (68.8 per cent)

Indians move to VET from Higher Ed:  CMM first reported the trend of Indian HE students holding up the VET sector in the middle of last year (CMM June 15) and it continues today. While 2021 pathway data is not yet available the 2020 figures indicate that 11,206 Indian students studied a higher ed program prior to commencing a VET program in 2020, up from 9,003 in 2019 (24.5 per cent).

The February HE data also shows that India enrolments are down from 66,347 in 2020 to 49,239 (-25.7 per cent). CMM believes the movement is still very much occurring with existing students seeking cheaper courses and to stay in Australia, while new visa holders offshore are electing to move from UG to VET qualifying programs that will gain credit.

As a learned reader puts it “why pay $25k to $30k and beyond to study on-line when you can spend $10k and get the same outcome”.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent