Export education: stronger for longer

Pessimists point to the possibility of a downturn in Chinese demand for Australian universities (CMM, Monday and yesterday), optimists point to the trend-line. Which is way up on last year. Certainly, exports could be stronger for longer than looked likely in the 2011-13 dip.

There were 624 000 international students in Australia in 2017, 13 per cent more than in ’16. And way, way up on 2014, when there were 452 000. The growth is set to roll on, with 2017 commencements up 12 per cent on ’16. This compares to average annual commencements of 3.8 per cent over the preceding ten years.

There was growth in all main markets, including China which continues by far the single largest source of sales, growing 54 per cent between ’14 and ’16. In 2014 the 119 000 students from China accounted for 26 per cent of the total rising to 184 000 (29 per cent) last year.

Demand from second-place India was also robust, up by 48 per cent, to 68 000 in 2016. Nepal was also up, 113 per cent to 28 000 and the number of Brazilian students sambaed strongly, up 62 per cent to 24 000.

The higher education (up 15 per cent between 2016 and 2017) and VET systems (up 15 per cent) drove the industry’s growth, which the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates generates $30.9bn for the economy.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham points to the BOoS number and says the government is enhancing the industry by raising the bar for providers in student welfaresupport services and the performance of international agents.


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