Australia Sees Big Jump in International Enrollments, Despite Downturn Fears

May 06, 2009

Despite fears that the global economic downturn would stunt the growth of Australia’s lucrative education market, the number of international students enrolling in its colleges and universities has jumped a record 20 percent, the newspaper The Australian reported.

The figures for the critical March enrollment period, compared with those from the previous year, took many Australian government and education leaders by surprise. It was expected that enrollments of students from Asia, the country’s largest source of international students, would slow or possibly remain level because of the current financial crisis.

Instead, the largest source of new students was India, with an increase of nearly 40 percent. Students from China, however, still make up nearly a quarter of all international students enrolled in Australian higher education, according to government statistics.

Australia is particularly attractive to foreign students at the moment. The fall of the Australian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar makes a college education in Australia nearly 25 percent cheaper than it was a year ago.

The good news, however, worries some. There are fears that the government will argue that the growth in international students, whose full-fee tuition payments help subsidize domestic public universities, is reason to put off promises to spend more on infrastructure and research. —Martha Ann Overland