Australian Bureau of Statistics
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003
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Full-fee paying overseas students
Trends in overseas student arrivals
In 1999-2000, 64,000 long-term visitor arrivals and 163,100 short-term visitor arrivals stated that education was their main purpose for travelling to Australia. This represents 48% of all long-term visitor arrivals and 4% of all short-term visitor arrivals.
Long-term visitor arrivals for education have increased by more than eight times since 1981-82 (from 7,600), while short-term visitor arrivals for education have increased tenfold over the same period (from 16,300) (graph 10.39). Over the last two decades, there have been some changes to the ranking of the countries of residence of visitor arrivals for education.
While Malaysia, the United States of America, Hong Kong and Indonesia have frequently been present in the top five, Singapore and China have become more prominent in the 1990s (table 10.40).
Papua New Guinea and New Zealand declined in relative importance as source countries through the 1980s and 1990s, although the numbers of arrivals from these countries continued to increase. Since the early 1980s, the quality of Australian education has become better known and promoted more widely internationally.
As the economies of Asian countries grew, so did their need for a skilled, educated workforce. Australia absorbed many students who might otherwise have studied in the United States of America or the United Kingdom, because Asian students perceived it as being closer and cheaper.
Between 1997-98 and 1998-99, there was a decline in the number of arrivals for education from Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia. This was associated with the Asian currency crisis in 1997-98, resulting in fewer people travelling to study because of the increased cost.
Countries less affected by the currency crisis (such as China and Singapore) did not experience the same declines in visitor arrivals, and arrivals from the United States of America rose markedly due to a large increase in short-term visitor arrivals.
Between 1998-99 and 1999-2000, visitor arrivals from Indonesia, Hong Kong (SAR of China) and Malaysia increased, and in 1999-2000 visitor arrivals for education from all countries were larger than ever before.
Characteristics of overseas students
In 2000, there were 153,400 overseas students in Australia, according to Australian Education International. This figure differs from the estimate of overseas visitor arrivals for education because it counts the number of students in Australia during the year, rather than the number of arrivals into Australia. It also only counts those students with student visas or students in higher education who are not Australian or New Zealand citizens, while estimates of overseas visitor arrivals count every person who states that education is their main purpose for travelling.
Almost half of the 153,400 overseas students in Australia during 2000 were studying in the higher education sector (72,700 or 47%).
Higher education experienced the greatest growth in overseas student numbers, doubling between 1994 and 2000 (graph 10.41). The number of students in vocational education also increased over this period (from 19,500 to 30,800), while those in school education remained much the same (around 13,000).
ELICOS numbers generally increased between 1994 and 2000, although numbers have varied within this period, peaking in 1996, falling substantially in 1997 and 1998, then recovering somewhat in 1999 and 2000. These courses may have been more affected by the Asian currency crisis than others, because some students undertake them as part of work-related training. In addition, overseas visitors may combine plans to study short English courses with plans to holiday in Australia.
Reflecting the fact that most overseas students are studying in higher education, in 2000 they were most commonly aged 20-24 years (43%) (graph 10.42). There were also similar numbers of men and women from overseas countries studying in Australia. This contrasts with the situation in 1983, when most (67%) overseas students in higher education were men.
Overseas students in schools
In 2000, close to 1,400 overseas students were attending primary school while 11,400 were attending secondary school. They comprised 8.3% of all overseas students. While the number of overseas students in schools has remained much the same since 1994 (from 12,600 to 12,800), in 2000 they represented a smaller proportion of overseas students. This is due to the steady increase of overseas students in higher education.
Table 10.43 shows the proportions of overseas students in schools by state/territory. The proportions studying in Victorian and Western Australian primary schools increased significantly between 1994 and 2000, while the proportion studying in Queensland schools showed a large fall. For secondary school students the state to gain most was Victoria, while the proportions studying in New South Wales and Western Australia fell.
Overseas students in higher and vocational education
As noted earlier, in 2000 some 72,700 or 47% of overseas students were studying in the higher education sector. The majority (64%) of these were studying towards bachelor degrees.
The increase in overseas student numbers in vocational education (from 19,500 in 1994 to 30,800 in 2000) could be attributed to the fact that the VET sector expanded during the 1990s. Overseas students may have been attracted to its increasingly varied curriculum.
In 2000, the most common field of study for overseas students in both higher education and vocational education was Business, administration and economics (44% of higher education students and 58% of vocational education students) (graph 10.44).
These field of study choices for overseas students differed in some respects from those of Australian students. In 2000, Business, administration and economics was the most common field of study for Australian VET students. For Australian higher education students, Arts, humanities and social sciences was the most common field, with Business, administration and economics a close second.
Overseas students in intensive English language courses
In addition to overseas students who come to Australia to study towards degrees, certificates and other long-term courses, some students come for shorter periods to undertake courses in the English language. Around 36,800 or 24% of overseas students were undertaking ELICOS in 2000. These courses can be undertaken at a variety of institutions.
While those undertaken at higher education and vocational education institutions may be part of a degree or diploma, those undertaken at private institutions can be as short as six weeks. In 2000, almost half (48%) of overseas students undertaking ELICOS were studying in private colleges, while 27% were studying at vocational education institutions and 22% at higher education institutions.
However, unlike students undertaking other courses, ELICOS students do not require a student visa, and these figures do not include overseas visitors who undertake English language courses while in Australia on a tourist or a working holiday visa. In 2000, it was estimated that 43% of overseas visitors studying ELICOS had other types of visas.
Overseas students continue to be a major source of revenue for Australian educational institutions, with their expenditure on fees increasing from $883m to $1.8b between 1994 and 2000.
Overseas students also contribute to the Australian economy more generally. For example, in 2000 they spent $1.9b on goods and services while in Australia (table 10.45). In recent years, the Australian education industry has built upon the success of exporting education by establishing campuses in countries other than Australia. In addition, it is possible for students to study Australian courses in other countries via distance education.
In 2000, around 34,900 or 19% of all overseas students enrolled in Australian institutions were studying offshore, most commonly in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong (SAR of China). This number has increased fourfold since 1994.
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This page last updated 8 December 2006