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Australian Overseas Student Numbers Fall

AUSTRALIA’S $18 billion-a-year foreign students business is under pressure, with applications from its biggest market, China, forecast to plunge by as much as half for some universities and colleges.

The country’s second-biggest export sector after resources is quickly losing market share to the US and Britain due to soaring costs and uncertain government policies, a situation that could trigger further closures by local tertiary institutions.

“There is certainly a degree of panic about Australia in the market here, and I am not sure if Australian institutions understand that,” said Thomas Wang, the manager of Australian education at education agent China Star in Beijing.

“Some universities are expecting a fall of 20 to 30 per cent. “I think that’s quite optimistic — I think there will be a fall of 50 per cent for some universities.”

The bad news from China follows the cut in student numbers from India, where a series of attacks on Indian students and a crackdown on visa applications saw a collapse of education sales , force the closure of about 20 vocational colleges.

China is the biggest foreign buyer of Australian education, with about 165,000 students enrolled in courses.

In a confidential recent cable to the government titled “Australia faces downturn in China’s expanding international education market”, AEI Australia Education International in Beijing warned that the nation’s market share had dropped by 15-20 per cent this year and was due to fall by as much again next year.

“Based on their perceptions of the market, and their estimations of the decline in inquiries regarding study in Australia, most agents believe Australia lost between 10 and 20 per cent of its market share over the past six months,” the cable from AEI said.

The cost of studying in Australia for Chinese students has doubled in just two years from about 400,000 renminbi to 800,000 ($126,940), due to a combination of rising fees, the soaring dollar and tougher requirements.

Overseas students contacted by The Australian are waiting for Skills Australia to release its review of the migration points system, especially the new priority Skilled Occupation List, which is expected to tighten the number of courses that lead to residency…….

Australia too expensive, say Chinese graduates. YE Menglu and Li (not her full name) are Chinese students who have ruled out coming to Australia for their studies… Qiao Yu, a consultant at Beijing Global Advance Students Service Centre, an agent who places students in offshore universities and colleges, believes half the students might choose destinations other than Australia… She cites an increase in tuition fees and more bank deposit guarantees demanded (up from $12,000 to $18,000) as the main reason for a drop-off in numbers applying to Australia….. “What’s more, the new migration policy to be issued at the end of this month might cancel accountancy as a preferred course for migration. “This will make Australia less attractive to Chinese students.”

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