The market was moving before COVID-19 cruelled it

International student commencement/enrolments for February were ok overall, but the headline figure disguises a change in demand, Dirk Mulder reports

Higher education in Victoria took a hit in February, with starts down 21 per cent, way worse than other markets. But it was not Chinese students, hit by the travel ban from February 1, who were the big no-shows. While they were down by 17 per cent in HE the comparable figure for Indians was more than twice that, 38 per cent.

It’s not that the Indian education market collapsed – people switched sectors. In Victoria VET starts by students from India were up 61 per cent. The national figure was 67 per cent.

What appears to be happening is Indian students responding to costs and immigration issues, independent of the virus crisis.

University course costs are much more expensive than VET, making securing permanent residency a big gamble. So, people are switching to college courses. The February year on year figures for Indian students starting study in Victoria are; vehicle mechanics (up 48 per cent), translating/interpreting (up 48 per cent), security services (up 50 per cent), business (up 81 per cent), commercial cookery (94 cent up) and hospitality (up 256 per cent).

There is an apparent trend for students to study lower-cost courses, make as much money as they can, and send it home.

It’s not a strategy that will work now but could reappear as the economy bounces back.

Dirk Mulder is CMM’s international education correspondent.