New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that falling overseas student numbers have removed more than AUS$3 billion from Australian education exports this year. The total value of Australian education exports, the country’s biggest service export sector, fell to AUS$13.9 billion in 2011 – a decline of nearly 20% from 2010 exports of AUS$17.2 billion and well below the sector’s 2009 peak of AUS$17.7 billion.
This sharp decline has been attributed to a strengthening Aussie dollar, more stringent visa requirements, and highly publicised stories of violence against foreign students in Australia.
Australian Education International has provided a more detailed picture of year-over-year trends in a recentresearch release. AEI’s research describes a 9.5% drop in student visa holders in Australia from 2010 to 2011. The Vocational Education and Training (VET) and English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) sectors showed the sharpest declines, -18.5% and -17.3% respectively, while the higher education sector was essentially flat over the two years.
These latest statistics support the Australian government’s implementation of recommendations from the Knight Review to ease visa access for international students. Industry observers note the importance of these steps in strengthening the education export sector in Australia but expect it will take some time to rebuild international enrolments to their previous highs.