AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS
CATALOGUE NO. 4102.0
ABS catalogue no. 4102.0 ISSN 1321–1781
© Commonwealth of Australia 2011
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Produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics
International students make a significant
contribution to Australian society, diversifying and enriching communities, and strengthening Australia’s global networks. The decision to study in Australia also offers many benefits to international students, allowing them to gain a high quality, internationally recognised education, as well as the opportunity to experience life in Australia. The international education sector is important not only to Australian society, but also the country’s economy. Education services as a group are Australia’s largest service export industry, with onshore activity contributing $16.3 billion to the Australian economy in 2010–11.1 Furthermore, many educational institutions rely on the income from full-fee paying international students to assist in the provision of quality education to all students, both international and domestic. In 2009, over one in five (22%) tertiary students studying in Australia were international students.2 While the size of the international student population is considerable both in tertiary and other sectors, Australia’s international education sector is undergoing a period of change. This change is driven by adjustments to Australia’s migration policy, as well as changing perceptions of the Australian education market, the increased value of the Australian dollar, and the growth of Australia’s overseas competitors.
Data sources and definitions
This article draws on several sources to present data about international students in Australia. Data on student visa applications lodged and granted are from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Overseas student enrolment and commencement data are from Australian Education International’s (AEI) International Student Data and include data presented in the AEI Research Snapshot Series. Unless otherwise stated, data in this article relate to students studying onshore in Australia. Student visas lodged refers to the count of paper applications receipted in a departmental office or submitted electronically. Student visas granted refers to the number of visas granted including primary and review grants. International students as defined by the Australian Education International are full-fee paying students studying in Australia on a student visa. This definition does not include New Zealand citizens as they do not require a student visa to study in Australia.
The process of becoming an international student in Australia involves a number of steps, the most significant of which are enrolling in the student’s course of interest, and applying for a student visa through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). Student visa data obtained from DIAC can be examined to gain an understanding of trends in the international student sector. There are numerous ways to measure the size of the international student sector,3 with different data sources offering alternative perspectives. To examine recent changes in the sector, this article will investigate both student visa and student enrolments data in Australia.
Student visa applications lodged and granted
Trends in student visa...