Chinese student enrolments are exploding in Australia

Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

I keep reading in various parts of the world wide interweb rumour mill that the pace of Australian population growth is set to slow sharply.

Hmm. I’ll gladly stand corrected here if needs be, but I’m not buying it.

The latest Government data for the three months to March revealed a thunderous 459,621 international student enrolments over the year to date, for another punchy 12 per cent increase over the past year.

The actual number of international students in Australia so far this year is 421,258, also a 12 per cent increase (students may enrol for more than one course, y’see), while commencements are up even more dramatically by 13 per cent.

A rip-snorting 46,370 Chinese students have already commenced courses in Aussie educational establishments this year, which is 23 per cent more than this time last year!

Big numbers, yes.

Yet it’s the potential cumulative impact of the percentage increases which is the really astonishing thing.

Enrolments have increased by a walloping 36 per cent over the past three years alone, with most international students bound for the largest capital cities, drawn like scholarly flies to the bright city lights.

Well, that plus the fact that a lot of the most prestigious Universities, schools and colleges are located close to the centres of the most populous capital cities.

Small wonder, perhaps, that apartment vacancy rates haven’t been rising as fast as had been predicted in Sydney and Melbourne, despite the record construction boom.


Most of the growth in international students is sourced from Asia – a worthy glimpse into Australia’s future – and from China and India in particular.

China rising

There was a rollicking 23 per cent year-on-year increase in Chinese commencements in the first quarter of 2016, and a 26 per cent increase specifically in the higher education sector.

Meanwhile Chinese students have accounted for some 29.4 per cent of enrolments over the year to date, up from 27.8 per cent in the first three months of 2015.

Records are being shattered all over the show, and far more than could (or should) be mentioned in any one article.

There will doubtless be a few half-hearted noises made about diversification and spreading the love (or at least the concentration of risk).

But let’s face it China has a solidly growing population of about 1,381,000,000 and comparatively speaking there are very few of us.

India’s population isn’t far behind at around 1.25 billion.

On balance, It appears unlikely that the supply of willing applicants is likely to dry up any time soon, so provided that education standards are maintained and establishments can facilitate foreign students appropriately, Government forecasts will continue to project nothing short of an explosion in student visas.

There has also been very strong year-on-year growth in Indian student enrolments, which one assumes (with admittedly little statistical support to my assertion) is predominantly a Melbourne thing.


Following the relaxation – ahem, streamlining – of visa rules for international students, tens of thousands of Asian students will in time go on to become permanent residents and Australian citizens.

The good fellows and my former employers at the Green Dot of Deloitte Access & Touche-Ross-Tohmatsu plc (or whatever they’re known as these days) now estimate that the higher education export industry is worth a thumping $20 billion per annum to Australia, which is even more than had previously been believed.

It’s far from a universally popular trend, of course, but as an immigrant myself I’m all for it, as international students go on to make Australia an infinitely richer place in many more ways than can be measured by accountants with Excel spreadsheets.

None of this would be surprising news to readers of this blog, of course.

Nǐ hǎo!

This post first appeared at the Pete Wargent blog. Republished with permission. Copyright 2016. You can follow Pete Wargent on Twitter.