Australia on track for 12% growth in 2016

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Total international enrolment in Australia has increased by 12%, year-to-date October 2016
  • Commencements are up by 11%, compared to the same YTD period for 2015
  • Australia has recorded overall growth of 36% since 2013
  • Three in four international students in the country come from Asia, with China far and away the largest sending market

The latest data release from the Australian Department of Education and Training (DET) reveals that the country’s international education sector is tracking toward another year of strong growth for 2016.

The department reports that year-to-date October 2016, total international enrolments are up 12%, compared to the same period for 2015, and that commencements have increased by 11%.

As is always the case with DET data, there is a necessary caution here in that the statistics are tracking total course enrolments based on reporting from institutions and also from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). This method results in an enrolment count that is considerably higher than the actual head count or FTE enrolments for a given period.

As DET explains: “International student enrolment data generally does not represent the number of overseas students in Australia or the number of student visas issued in different countries. Instead data counts actual course enrolments. The exception is the data at the beginning of a month which represents a close approximation to the number of students enrolled on that day.” This approach gives rise to cases where students could be counted more than once if, for example, they enroll twice during the same reporting period (e.g., in an English language programme initially and then a degree programme after).

Keeping in mind the department’s suggestion that start-of-month enrolment values provide a closer approximation of actual student numbers, the following chart tracks total enrolments, commencements, and start-of-month numbers through October 2016.

foreign-enrolment-in-australian-education-all-sectors-year-to-date-october-2016
Foreign enrolment in Australian education, all sectors, year-to-date October 2016. Source: Australian Department of Education and Training

DET reports that all education sectors have seen growth through October 2016, particularly higher education institutions (+13%) and vocational programmes (+12%) – which together accounted for 70% of all international enrolment YTD October 2016.

More broadly, all sectors have seen growth from 2013 on, and total enrolment in Australia has grown by 36% YTD October 2016 compared to the same period four years earlier.

australian-enrolment-growth-by-education-sector
Australian enrolment growth by education sector (and total), YTD October 2013 to YTD October 2016. Source: Australian Department of Education and Training

Sending countries

As the following chart illustrates, roughly three in four foreign students in Australia come from Asia.

proportion-of-ydt-october0-2016-enrolment-by-world-region
Proportion of YTD October 2016 enrolment by world region. Source: Australian Department of Education and Training

Not surprisingly, nine of Australia’s top ten sending markets are also found in Asia, Brazil being the one exception. And those top ten countries accounted for nearly seven in ten international students in Australia in 2016.

China is far and away the largest sender with 28% of all enrolments YTD October 2016. Taking a broader view, the fastest-growing markets over the four years from from 2013 to 2016 were India (+63%), Brazil (+65), and Nepal (+58).

top-ten-sending-countries-for-for-ytd-october-2016
Top ten sending countries for YTD October 2016, with growth indicated for each since YTD October 2013, and percentage of total enrolment for 2016. Source: Australian Department of Education and Training

For additional background on recent developments in international education in Australia, please see:



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