Record number of int'l students in Australia, Chinese mainland biggest source

Updated 2018-04-18 15:45:01 Xinhua

Australia is playing host to a record number of international students on the back of an influx of the Chinese mainland students.

Simon Birmingham, Australia's minister for education and training, announced on Wednesday that the number of international students enrolled to study in Australia in February was up 13 percent from February 2017 to 542,054.

The figure represents significant growth from 2013 where the number of total international enrolments was 305,534.

The Chinese mainland remained the biggest source of international students in Australia with 173,000, or 31 percent of the total, an 18 percent increase from 2017.

India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Nepal, which had the highest growth at 57.4 percent, came next.

"International education is going from strength to strength," Birmingham said in a media release on Wednesday.

"We are thankful that so many international students choose to enhance their knowledge and skills in Australia, providing a richer and more diverse experience for both Australian students and other international students."

"International education is vital to the people-to-people links and knowledge sharing between Australia and the rest of the world."

Education exports were worth 32.2 billion Australian dollars (25 billion U.S. dollars) to the economy in 2017, a 22 percent increase on 2016, with growth expected to remain strong as the number of international students continues to rise.

"The sector also supports around 130,000 local jobs through tourism, retail and hospitality," Birmingham said.

While Asia has been a traditional source for students in Australia, universities have sought to diversify their student population, prompting strong rises in the number of students from Brazil and Colombia.

Andrew Norton, higher education program director at the Grattan Institute, said the international student market presented an opportunity for huge profits for universities.

"Because the government has effectively capped the number of domestic students, international students are becoming an increasing percentage of all students," Norton told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday.

"A lot of that revenue to universities is being invested in buildings and in research activities."

International students are particularly prominent in institutions belonging to the Group of Eight; an organization comprising the country's eight leading research universities.

"That means there are huge numbers of international students living in the inner cities of Australia's big capitals," Norton said.

"That is transforming the rental market, it's transforming the nature of the restaurants in the area, it's changing what the streets look like. So this is having a big effect on certain parts of Australia well beyond the university gates."

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