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International Students

Australia as a destination for international students

Australia plays a significant role in international education and is the third most popular country in which to study, behind the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Students choose Australia not only for its quality of education but also for its diversity of educational and cultural experiences, the integrity of its qualifications, and its reputation for a safe and friendly environment.

International education is Australia’s third largest export industry. Total export income generated by all international education activity in 2019-20 was $37.5 billion with an additional $1.446 billion paid as tuition fess from students studying outside Australia due to COVID travel restrictions. School students are a small proportion of the total number of international students in Australia, accounting for just over 3.5 per cent ($1.325 billion) of the total export income from international education and 3.5 per cent of the total number of international students studying in Australia.

In 2019 total international student enrolments reached their highest point ever with 952,271 enrolments, growing by 7.3 per cent to 882,482 in 2020. School sector enrolments decreased by 19.8 per cent over the same period to 20,430 enrolments in 2020 and the non-government sector enrolments decreased over this period by 13 per cent to 8,077 enrolments.


International students in Independent schools

Non-government school enrol just over 39.5 per cent of international students in the school sector. 6,630 overseas students, approximately 32 per cent of international school students in Australia, were enrolled in Independent schools in 2020. The majority of international students in Independent schools – 82 per cent – are in the secondary years, with senior secondary accounting for approximately half of secondary enrolments. The remaining 18 per cent are in primary schools.

The major source country for the non-government school sector is China, accounting for nearly 58 per cent of total enrolments in the sector in 2020. Together Hong-Kong, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan account for a further 25 per cent of the total.


International student enrolments in the non-government school sector – Top 10 source countries, 2019.

Source: Austrade PRISM data 2019

Note: This data covers student visa holders only.


Enrolment trends

The 2020 data shows that between 2019 and 2020, international student enrolments in the schools’ sector declined by 20 percent and commencements declined by 31 per cent. The non-government schools sector suffered a decline in international student enrolments of 13 per cent and commencements of 19 per cent over the same period. This large decline in international student enrolments and commencements between 2019 and 2020 was caused by the travel restrictions imposed on students due to COVID.

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