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Chinese student numbers in Australia go from strength to strength

08 August 2013

International education was Australia’s fourth-largest export last year, and a 30% increase in international student enrollments is planned by 2020.

The relationship between China and Australia has grown considerably over recent years, and today China is Australia's largest trading partner. Both countries are actively engaged economically, culturally and politically spanning numerous organizations such as APEC, East Asia Summit and the G20.

International Education

International education was Australia’s fourth-largest export in 2012, generating about $14.5 billion Australian dollars (US$13.3 billion) in export revenue [1].

In that year Australia had 192,600 international undergraduate enrolments, with over 90,000 of these being Chinese students. From the big four (the US, UK, Canada and Australia), Australia has the largest concentration of international undergraduates as a share of its total national undergraduate enrollment [2].

A report chaired by Dr Michael Chaney for the International Education Advisory Council offers further good news. The Chaney report predicts a 30% increase in enrollments from 2013 to 2020, meaning international students could contribute over $20 billion dollars to the Australian economy in the future [3].

Chinese students will play a key part in this growth, as they currently make up 40% of international enrollments, far exceeding those from second-placed Malaysia with 7.2%.

Professor Kerry Brown from Sydney University’s China Studies Centre explains why Chinese students were opting for Australian universities: “Some Chinese students and their parents complain that [with] Chinese universities it’s much more rote learning, class sizes are huge… you’ve got very little space for students to really kind of express themselves.” [4]

In addition to offering more progressive education, Australian universities are also highly rated on the world stage, with eight Australian institutions in the Times Higher Education World Rankings top 200, compared to two from China.

Chinese at High Schools – The Future

High schools are increasingly viewed among Chinese parents as a pathway to foreign universities for their children. Other driving factors include fierce competition for places at China’s top universities, aversion to the Chinese school system, and fear of political instability. Gordon Orr, a director based in Shanghai said the trend would continue:

“It has long been common knowledge that many of the offspring of China’s leaders study outside the country. More and more upwardly mobile people are now following suit.”

This trend suggests that Australia will continue to provide world class education to the growing number of Chinese students, at both secondary and higher level.

[1] Australian Goverment | Department for Trade and Affairs report.
[2] International Student Mobility Trends 2013
[3] ICEF Monitor | Chaney Report
[4] Quid | Exporting knowledge to the world.

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