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International student statistics

International education was worth $29 billion to the Australian economy in 2022, down from $37.6 billion in 2018-19.

Higher education is one of Australia's biggest exports. But just how much does it contribute to the economy and how many international students do we have? Read on to find out.

Quick summary

  • There were around 619,371 international students on a visa in Australia in 2022, up 8% from 2021.
  • Most international students come from China, India, Nepal, Colombia and Vietnam. A decade ago, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia were also among the top nationalities.
  • Only 53% of international students who enrolled to study ended up commencing their course in 2022.
  • International education was worth $29 billion to the Australian economy in 2022, down from $37.6 billion in 2018–19.
  • 37% of international students say they rely on their parents to cover the cost of living and studying abroad and a third (33%) want to see more global money transfer options.

How many international students study in Australia?

  • 619,371 international students were studying on a student visa in 2022, up 54% from 2012 when there were 401,798 students.
  • Since 2002, the most international students Australia had in a year was in 2019 when there were 756,713.
  • In 2022, most international students studying in Australia came from China (156,217), India (100,302), Nepal (57,182), Colombia (22,662), Vietnam (22,521), Thailand (19,362) and Brazil (19,057). A decade ago, in 2012, the nationalities most represented were China (111,014), India (36,901), South Korea (20,699), Malaysia (19,586), Vietnam (17,817) and Indonesia (13,763).
  • Australia has seen a huge increase in the number of Nepalese international students (286%) in the last decade. On the other end of the spectrum. there has been a huge decrease in the number of Norwegian students (82%).

What do international students study?

  • Only 53% of international students who enrol to study end up starting their course, based on data from 2022. This is more common for VET than higher-education students (55% vs 41%).
  • 359,289 international students enrolled in higher education in 2022, 271,676 for VET, 79,078 in English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS), 11,744 in schools and 19,940 in non-award programs.
  • 148,388 international students actually commenced their higher education, 148,848 commenced VET, 73,273 commenced ELICOS, 5,888 commenced schools and 15,717 commenced non-award programs.

How much do international students contribute to the economy?

  • International education was worth $29 billion to the Australian economy in 2022, students studying online contributed $3.5 billion to this figure.
  • According to Universities Australia, education is now Australia's fourth largest export behind natural resources.
  • International education peaked in 2018-19, adding $37.6 billion to the economy. Since Covid-19 it has been on the decline but recently it's showing signs of recovery.
  • Nearly 80,000 students came to Australia in January 2023 – double the number of students who arrived in the same period last year.
  • As of 2021, over 130,000 people in Australia have jobs that rely on the international education sector.

Why do international students choose to study in Australia?

  • 89% of international students say they have their expectations met regarding their overall study experience in Australia, according to Cohort Go's 2019 Aussie Study Experience Report.
  • The top reason international students consider studying in Australia is the lifestyle (77%), followed by culture (61%) and the weather (59%).
  • However, nearly a quarter (23%) of international students say it's hard to make new friends and a third say settling into life in Australia has been difficult.
  • Other popular countries international students consider include Canada (29%), the US (21%), New Zealand (9%), the UK (8%), Germany (5%) and Spain (4%).

How do international students afford to study in Australia?

  • 37% of international students say they rely on their parents to cover the cost of living and studying abroad.
  • Just 20% say their course is reasonably priced and nearly half (48%) describe it as expensive.
  • Nearly half (49%) of international students want to see transaction fees for overseas transfers lowered, and 42% want to have access to payment plans.
  • A third (33%) want more global money transfer options and 20% want better customer support.

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