International student enrolments in Australian universities continued to decline in 2012 with the high Australian dollar, safety concerns and increased competition from American universities blamed for the poor result.
A report from the Federal Government’s Australian Education International department revealed from 2011 to 2012 the number of international student enrolments fell by 4.3 per cent, continuing the decline seen in the past three years.
The number of students from China studying in Australia fell 7.1 per cent, a concerning decline considering Chinese students make up the largest portion of international students in Australia at 29.6per cent.
Luong Yuk, a Chinese student studying commerce at the University of Queensland confirmed the report’s suggestion that cost of living was a concern for international students.
“When I started four years ago it was a lot cheaper to study in Australia but in the last two years it’s become very expensive. The fees are expensive but my family always knew they would be. My family always planned for me to come to Australia”
Mr Luong, who is supported by his family in China, began studying in Australia in 2008 when it was 50 per cent cheaper thanks to a low Australian dollar. With the Australian dollar now sitting around parody with The US dollar many Chinese students consider studying at elite American universities.
“It’s the cost of living that has become more expensive. That’s why some Chinese students are going to America.”
The report also revealed safety concerns are leading to declining international student enrolments, particularly with students from India. Student enrolments from India saw the largest decline in 2011-12 plummeting 23.9 per cent.
In 2009, several well-documented attacks on Indian students in Australia were the subject of significant media attention in India. After the incidents student advisors in India began discouraging students from Australia.
Lingesh Jayakumar who began studying in Australia in 2010 says a lot of Indian students don’t consider Australia safe after the attacks.
“Those were racist attacks, so of course people in India had concerns. I still came to Australia because my brother came here and promised me it was different to the media attention.”
“I feel Australia is a safe place, those attacks were bad but they were blown out of proportion. I always try and tell people back in India to come to Australia, even though it’s much more expensive than it used to be.”
International students studying in Australia face significantly higher costs than domestic students, with university fees often three times higher. A standard first year course at the University of Queensland costs an international student $3840 while a domestic student pays $1224 which is billed to a government assisted HELP loan scheme.
International students play an important role not only in the higher education system but also in the Australian economy. Education services as a group are Australia’s largest service export industry, with onshore activity contributing $16.3 billion to the Australian economy in 2010-11.