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 2019-20 was $39.7 billion, including tuition fees from students studying outside Australia due to COVID travel restrictions.

International student enrolments have been significantly impacted by the COVID pandemic. In 2019, total international student enrolments in all Australian education sectors reached their highest point ever with 952,199 enrolments, before reducing by 7.6 per cent to 880,019 in 2020 and a further 18.4 per cent to 718,385 in 2021.

School students are a small proportion of the total number of international students in Australia, accounting for just over 1.8 per cent of the total number of international students studying in Australia in 2021.

International student enrolments in Australian schools also decreased between 2019 and 2021 by 48.2 per cent to 13,204 enrolments in 2021. Non-government schools enrol just over 41.5 per cent of international students in the school sector. International enrolments in non-government schools decreased between 2019 and 2021 by 41.0 per cent to 5,478 enrolments.

Most of the international students in the non-government sector are in Independent schools. Approximately 34 per cent (4,541 international students) of school sector international school students in Australia, were enrolled in Independent schools in 2021.

Most international students in Independent schools – 82 per cent – are in the secondary years (with senior secondary accounting for over 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 55 per cent of total enrolments in the sector in 2021. Together Hong-Kong, Vietnam, South Korea and Papua New Guinea account for a further 27 per cent of the total.

The most recent data shows that international student enrolments in all school sectors declined by 34 per cent and new student commencements declined by 56 per cent. The non-government schools sector suffered a decline in international student enrolments of 32 per cent and new student commencements of 53 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.