Families 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 as safe and friendly.

Australia plays a significant role in international education and is often cited as one of the most popular countries in which to study, alongside the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

All education providers that enrol students on student visas need to be registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS). The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) legislative framework also ensures that CRICOS-registered education providers meet nationally consistent standards in education delivery, facilities, the welfare of younger students, and provides tuition fee protection for international students.

International education is Australia’s fourth largest export industry. Total export income generated by all international education activity in 2023 was $47.8 billion.

International student enrolments have been significantly impacted by the COVID pandemic. In 2019, total international student enrolments in all Australian education sectors reached 952,379 enrolments, before reducing by 7.6 per cent to 879,925 in 2020 and a further 18.6 per cent to 715,824 in 2021. In 2022, international student enrolments increased by 3.7 per cent to 742,332 and increased again in 2023 by 31.4 per cent to 975,229, their highest point ever.

School students are a small proportion of the total number of international students in Australia, accounting for just over 1.6 per cent of the total number of international students studying in Australia in 2023.

International student enrolments in Australian schools also decreased between 2019 and 2023 by 38 per cent to 15,883 enrolments in 2023. Independent schools enrol just over 27 per cent of international students in the school sector. International enrolments in non-government schools decreased between 2019 and 2023 by 43 per cent to 4,352 enrolments.

Most international students in Independent schools – 78 per cent – are in the secondary years (with junior secondary accounting for over half of secondary enrolments). The remaining 22 per cent are in primary schools.

The major source country for both the government and non-government school sectors is China, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of total enrolments in 2023. Together, Vietnam, Hong-Kong, South Korea and Germany account for a further 40 per cent of the total.

The most recent data shows that international student enrolments in all school sectors increased by 2.4 per cent since the start of COVID (between 2019 and 2023) and new student commencements increased by 10 per cent. Despite the small increase in international student enrolments and commencements since the start of COVID, the schools’ sector is still suffering a decline in international student enrolments of 38 per cent and new student commencements of 18 per cent over the same period.

This large decline in international student enrolments and commencements between 2020 and 2021 was caused by the ongoing travel restrictions imposed on students due to COVID. Travel restrictions for students were lifted in December 2021.