International enrolments: the worse starts now

2020 wasn’t so terrible but this year will be

New numbers from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment show total international enrolments were 882 000 last year, over 7 per cent down on the 952 000 in 2019. This is still ahead, just, of 2018 and the first fall since 2012 when that year’s 513 000 was down on 554 000 in 2011, and way down on 2009’s 631 000.

ELICOS took the worst hit last year, a third lower at 156 000. Higher education was down just 5 per cent to 418 000.

The real news is in commencements. VET did ok, down a bare 400, to 168 000. This makes CMM higher education correspondent Dirk Mulder’s point that international students are moving into VET from other sectors as a way of extending their stay (CMM March 1).

Overall starts were 398 000 last year, 22 per cent below the 510 000 in 2019. HE was 24 per cent lower but again, ELICOS took the hit, with a 44 per cent fall. This is very bad indeed for the future, with fewer numbers on the ELICOS pathway to VET and university study.

And this is before the decline in student numbers caused by lower 2020 starts flows through the system.