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International Students in Australia

Australia is an increasingly popular study destination with students from around the world wishing to gain a top-quality education. Each year more and more students take up courses in Australia and add to the already significant international student body around the country.

How many international students are studying in Australia?

In 2009, 631,935 international students were enrolled in education programs in Australia. This figure represents a 16.8% increase on 2008 enrolments (slightly down on the 20.7% increase between 2007 and 2008 figures). Commencements (new student enrolments) grew by 13.2%.

Which sectors are they studying in?

Most of the international students in Australia are studying in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, followed by the higher education sector, and the English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) sector (see the table below).

The VET sector is still experiencing rapid growth, with enrolments increasing by 33.3%. Courses in this sector are highly regarded worldwide for their quality and for the valuable work skills they provide. The higher education sector had enrolments and commencements grow in 2009 (12.1% and 15.4% respectively). The ELICOS sector also had a slight increase in 2009.

  • Sector Enrolments
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • Change %
  • Higher education
  • 182,770
  • 203,324
  • 12.1
  • VET
  • 175,461
  • 232,475
  • 33.3
  • ELICOS
  • 125,727
  • 135,141
  • 7.1
  • Schools
  • 28,798
  • 27,506
  • -2.9
  • Other
  • 31,142
  • 33,489
  • 7.2
  • Total in Australia
  • 543,898
  • 631,935
  • 16.8
Which states are they studying in?

New South Wales and Victoria attract by far the biggest numbers of international students. New South Wales registered over 235,000 students hailing from overseas countries in 2009, whilst Victoria has slightly fewer than 200,000 international students. The other states and territories have smaller numbers of international students, and smaller numbers of students overall.

Where are the international students from?

The table below shows the international student enrolments for the top five nationalities for 2009, which contributed 57.4% of Australia’s enrolments in all sectors. The most significant growth in enrolments in 2009 came from outside the top 5 markets, with Saudi Arabia increasing by almost 62%. All of the top 10 countries (according to enrolment volume) increased enrolment numbers between 2008 and 2009.

  • Nationality
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • Growth on 2008 %
  • Share of all nationalities %

  • China
  • 127,276
  • 154,777
  • 18
  • 24.5

  • India
  • 97,035
  • 120,913
  • 25.4%
  • 19.1

  • Republic of Korea
  • 35,376
  • 35,708
  • 1.6
  • 5.7

  • Thailand
  • 22,278
  • 26,460
  • 19.0
  • 4.2

  • Malaysia
  • 21,134
  • 23,103
  • 9.5
  • 3.7

  • All nationalities
  • 543,898
  • 631,935
  • 16.8
  • 100

What broad field of study are they taking?

In 2009, the field of study with the highest number of enrolments in the higher education sector was management and commerce (48.4%), while in the VET sector management and commerce registered 46% of enrolments, and the food, hospitality and personal services sector contributed 24.4% of enrolments.

The Information in this article is sourced from the Australian Government’s Australian Education International 2009 international student enrolments data.

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