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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1995  
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Contents >> Education >> Participation in Education: Overseas students in higher education

Participation in Education: Overseas students in higher education

The number of overseas students in Australian higher education institutions has more than trebled, from 13,700 in 1983 to 42,600 in 1993.

Australia benefits from the participation of overseas students in higher education. Benefits occur on personal, institutional and national levels. Direct benefits include the cultural enrichment of the educational environment and the revenue obtained from fees. In 1993, full fee-paying overseas students contributed $339 million to higher education. Indirect benefits include increased expenditure in the domestic economy and the enhancement of trade relations1.

However, there are concerns that the rising number of overseas students in Australian higher education institutions may limit access for local students2. This is despite government assurances that policy changes allowing fee-paying overseas students into Australian institutions will not displace local students.

The number of overseas students attending Australian higher education institutions increased markedly over the last decade. In 1983 there were 13,700 overseas students attending Australian higher education institutions, almost 4% of all higher education enrolments. By 1993 this had more than trebled to 42,600, accounting for more than 7% of higher education enrolments. In 1993, 83% of overseas students paid full fees, compared to 6% in 1987. This increase in the number of students paying full fees reflects the government's policy changes on overseas students.


Overseas students

The Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) defines overseas students as foreign students who enter Australia on student visas and who attend courses on either a full-fee or subsidised basis. Overseas students include students sponsored by government and non-government agencies, and permanent residents of New Zealand who are not New Zealand citizens.

People from overseas who enter Australia on tourist visas and study non-formal courses of up to three months' duration which do not lead to an award are excluded.

While overseas students participate in all sectors of the Australian education system, this review only covers those participating in higher education.

Higher education

Higher education comprises studies leading to the award of associate diploma, diploma, associate degree, bachelor degree or higher undertaken at commonwealth funded higher education institutions, mainly universities.


The impact of fees
Before the government abolished tuition fees for higher education in 1974, most overseas students were sponsored under the Colombo Plan or other government schemes. Others were sponsored by their own governments or paid the same fees as Australian students.

From 1974 until the early 1980s, overseas students enrolled on the same basis as Australian students, i.e there were no fees for tuition. In 1986 the government introduced full fees for overseas students. Some students, however, were fully sponsored by the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB), and others were privately subsidised, meeting some of the cost of their tuition via an overseas student charge. From 1990 all overseas students were admitted on a full fee-paying basis2.

In 1993 fees varied according to the field of study and level of course. The median annual costs were $15,000 for a doctorate or higher, $12,000 for a master's and other graduate studies and $10,000 for a bachelor's degree.

OVERSEAS HIGHER EDUCATION STUDENTS

Fee-paying overseas students(a)
All overseas students


Year
Men
Women
Persons
Men
Women
Persons
no.
no.
no.
no.
no.
no.

1983
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
9,098
4,576
13,674
1985
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
10,480
5,595
16,075
1987
678
341
1,019
10,992
6,256
17,248
1989
3,456
5,009
8,465
15,296
10,151
25,447
1991
13,377
10,155
23,532
19,438
14,970
34,408
1993
19,980
15,302
35,282
23,521
19,050
42,571

(a) Separate data on fee-paying overseas students were not collected until 1987.

Source: Department of Employment, Education and Training Selected Higher Education Statistics


Choice of courses
In 1993, 76% of overseas students were studying at undergraduate level and 97% of them were undertaking a bachelor's pass degree. Of those students studying at postgraduate level, 30% were undertaking doctorates or higher, 49% master's degrees, and 21% other postgraduate studies.

Business, administration and economics was the most popular field of study for both men and women at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Other popular fields of study for women at postgraduate level were arts, humanities and the social sciences and science and for men were science and engineering.

The second most popular field of study for undergraduate females was arts, humanities and the social sciences, while for undergraduate males it was science. The different course choices between men and women were similar to those of Australian students.

OVERSEAS STUDENTS' FIELDS OF STUDY, 1993

Undergraduate
Postgraduate


Men
Women
Men
Women
Field of study
%
%
%
%

Agriculture, animal husbandry
1.0
0.6
5.4
4.3
Architecture, building
3.3
1.6
3.3
1.9
Arts, humanities and social sciences
7.5
16.9
12.2
20.7
Business, administration, economics
44.0
47.2
24.9
21.5
Education
1.3
4.0
5.5
13.5
Engineering, surveying
17.2
2.9
17.6
4.7
Health
6.0
13.5
5.8
13.3
Law, legal studies
1.5
1.7
1.4
1.3
Science
18.1
11.5
22.9
18.4
Veterinary science
0.1
0.1
1.0
0.7
Total(a)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
no.
no.
no.
no.
Total(a)
16,499
15,039
6,546
3,504

(a) Excludes non-award courses.

Source: Department of Employment, Education and Training Selected Higher Education Statistics


Location of students
In 1993, 59% of all overseas higher education students were enrolled in either Victorian or New South Wales institutions. This was much the same as the proportion of all higher education students enrolled in these two states. Victoria had the most overseas higher education students, with 32% of all enrolments, compared to 28% of all higher education students enrolled in Victoria. Western Australia had the greatest difference between the proportions of overseas students and total students enrolled in its institutions, 14% compared to 10%.

Victoria's Monash University had the most fee-paying overseas students (4,120), accounting for 12% of all overseas fee-paying students. This was followed by the University of New South Wales (3,090), the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (2,945), and Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia (2,412).

HIGHER EDUCATION STUDENTS, 1993

Overseas
Total
State
%
%

Victoria
31.8
28.1
New South Wales
27.5
30.3
Western Australia
14.0
9.6
Queensland
13.8
16.3
South Australia
5.9
7.7
Australian Capital Territory
4.2
3.6
Tasmania
1.9
2.1
Northern Territory
0.5
0.7
Australian Catholic University(a)
0.4
1.5
Total
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
Total
42.6
575.6

(a) Australian Catholic University has campuses in more than one state.

Source: Department of Employment, Education, and Training Selected Higher Education Statistics


Source countries of overseas students
In 1993, the top three source countries for overseas students were Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore, accounting for 49% of the total overseas student population. The top ten source countries together contributed 69% of the total number of overseas students.

Monash University and the University of New South Wales attracted the highest number of students from Hong Kong. Monash University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Curtin University attracted the highest number of students from Malaysia, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Curtin University attracted the highest number from Singapore3.

TOP TEN SOURCE COUNTRIES(a) FOR OVERSEAS STUDENTS, 1993


(a) Students' country of permanent home residence.

Source: Department of Employment, Education and Training Selected Higher Education Statistics


Endnotes
1 Harris, G. and Jarrett, F. (1990) Educating overseas students in Australia: who benefits? Allen and Unwin.

2 Dobson, I. (1993) Trends in enrolments of overseas students in higher education People and Place Vol. 1, No. 2.

3 Department of Employment, Education and Training (1994) Overseas Student Statistics, 1993.



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