International students in Australia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Australia ranked third in top study abroad destinations with a total market value of over 5 billion AUD (3.47 billion USD) generated by international students in 2018.[1] In 2018, 869,709 international students were enrolled in educational programs in Australia,[2] which was about 8.8% higher than the amount in 2017 (799,371).[3] They come to gain a high-quality education, possibly immigrate, or to experience a different life. Each year, many new international students will enrol in Australian courses and add to the already significant international student body around the country.

Melbourne's University
University of Melbourne

Australia has the highest ratio of international students per capita in the world by a large margin.[4] In 2019, international students represented an average 26.7% of the student body population in Australian universities. International education therefore represents one of the country's largest exports and has a pronounced influence on the country's demographics, with a significant proportion of international students remaining in Australia after graduation on various skill and employment visas.[5]

According to data released by the Departure of Education and Training of the Australian Government in 2023, China is the most significant source of international students to Australia. India had the second largest proportion of the enrollments, followed by Nepal, Colombia and Philippines.[3]

All international students are required to obtain a valid student visa before they arrive in Australia.[6] When students apply for their student visa through the Department of Home Affairs of the Australian Government, they need to submit the electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) and a compulsory English language proficiency test score to lodge their visa application. Also, each student visa applicant must prove that they have enough financial ability to pay for their tuition fees, books and daily living expenses while they study in Australia.[7]

After the Australian government published the new immigration policy, international students are encouraged to study, work and stay in regional areas in Australia, such as Adelaide, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.[8] In order to protect the local workforce, the Australian government intends to reduce the number of accepted migrants, and in the long-term, the government aims to set the cap of skilled immigration to about 160,000.[9]

In 2023, according to the Department of Education of the Australian Government, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are the states attracting the major population of international student in Australia.[10]


In Australia, a student is considered an international student if they are not an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, New Zealand citizen, or a holder of an Australian permanent resident humanitarian visa.[11]


By destinations[edit]

Popular destinations[edit]

The top 3 states in Australia for foreign enrolment in 2018 are listed below.[12]

Top 3 states in Australia for foreign enrolment in 2018[12]
Rank Destination States Number of Students Per cent of Total
1 NSW / New South Wales 333,913 38.39%
2 VIC / Victoria 278,975 32.08%
3 QLD / Queensland 134,312 15.44%

Distribution of International Students in major cities and regional areas[edit]

Distribution of International Students in Australia in 2018

In 2018, 3% of international students enrolled in Australia stayed in regional locations of Australia, while 97% of international students chose to settle down in major cities.[12] All enrolments in Tasmania and the Northern Territory are considered as enrolled in regional areas.[8]

New South Wales had the largest number of international students, up to 333,913. Queensland had the largest regional area proportion (5%), followed by New South Wales (1%) and Victoria (1%).[12]

Distribution of International Students in Australia in 2018

China was the main source country for enrolments, which contributed 24% of regional area enrolments. Nepal (7%)[12] had the second large proportion of the regional area enrolments, followed by Malaysia, South Korea and the US, all of which are contributed three per cent[12] to total regional enrolments.

Distribution of international student enrolments in Australian capital and regional areas in 2018[12][2]
State / Territory Share Enrolments Total
Major cities Regional area Major cities Regional area
NSW 99% 1% 330,224 3,689 333,913
VIC 99% 1% 276,733 2,242 278,975
QLD 95% 5% 127,260 7,052 134,312
WA 100% 0% 51,597 233 51,830
SA 100% 0% 37,870 95 37,965
ACT 100% 0% 19,286 - 19,286
TAS - 100% - 10,796 10,796
NT - 100% - 2,632 2,632
Australia (Total) 97% 3% 842,970 26,739 869,709

Top 10 regional centers for international student enrolments in 2018 are listed below.[12]

Regional centers for international student enrolments in 2018[12]
State / Territory Regional centres 2017 2018 Share Growth in 2017
TAS Hobart 6,862 9,391 35% 37%
NT Darwin 2,462 2,625 10% 7%
QLD Cairns 2,675 2,475 9% -7%
QLD Toowoomba 2,064 2,038 8% -1%
QLD Townsville 1,942 1,860 7% -4%
NSW Richmond - Tweed 1,442 1,554 6% 8%
NSW New England and North West 1,350 1,427 5% 6%
TAS Launceston and North East 1,381 1,389 5% 1%
VIC Ballarat 1,001 1,199 4% 20%
VIC Geelong 418 323 1% -23%
Other Locations 2,612 2,458 9% -6%
Total enrolments in regional areas 24,209 26,739 100% 10%

Top 50 Countries and Regions sending students to Australia in 2018

By sending countries and regions[edit]

Top 20 countries and regions sending students to Australia in 2023 are listed below.[13]

January- July 2023[13]
Rank Country Number of


Per cent of total
1  China 152,395 21%
2  India 118,869 17%
3  Nepal 59,147 8%
4  Colombia 33,494 5%
5  Philippines 29,916 4%
6  Vietnam 27,764 4%
7  Thailand 24,241 3%
8  Pakistan 22,054 3%
9  Brazil 21,260 3%
10  Indonesia 19,166 3%
11  Malaysia 15,707 2%
12  Sri Lanka 14,968 2%
13  Hong Kong 13,207 2%
14  South Korea 12,278 4%
15  Bangladesh 10,537 1%
16  Bhutan 9,640 1%
17  Japan 9,624 1%
18  Taiwan 8,728 1%
19  Kenya 6,866 1%
20  Singapore 6,402
Total 616,263 86%
(Total out of 710,893 students in Australia during January to July in 2023)


Student visa[edit]

Generally, international students as citizens of other countries are required to obtain a valid student visa, which ascertains their legal status for staying in Australia. Students who have obtained the Student Visa (subclass 500) can stay in Australia for up to 5 years, depending on their enrolment.[6] Approximately, 400,000 overseas students are granted this visa each year. In Australia, when students apply for their visa, they need to get the Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) for each course and submit it to the Department of Home Affairs of the Australian Government.[14] Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) is compulsory for all overseas students.[15] Each student visa applicant must prove that they have enough financial ability to pay for their tuition, books and daily living expenses while they study in Australia.[14] Overseas students enrolled in an English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS, offered by secondary schools)[16] with a student visa are required to study full time (tourist and visitors to Australia can also participate in ELICOS study during their stay).[17]

Overseas student visa grants, 1996–97 to 2014-15[18][19]
Year Overseas students
1996-97 113,000
1997-98 108,827
1998-99 110,894
1999-00 119,806
2000-01 146,577
2001-02 151,894
2002-03 162,575
2003-04 171,616
2004-05 174,786
2005-06 190,674
2006-07 230,807
2007-08 278,715
2008-09 319,632
2009-10 270,499
2010-11 250,438
2011-12 253,046
2012-13 259,278
2013-14 292,060
2014-15 299,540

On 1 July 2016, after a new Simplified Student Visa Framework (SSVF) was implemented in Australia,[20] the Department of Home Affairs of Australian Government introduced a new immigration risk framework[21] to determine the amount of documents a student needs to submit with their application form, based on their country of citizenship and intended education provider.[22]

According to the new released Simplified Student Visa Framework (SSVF), foreign students are able to provide a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE)[23] to meet the English language requirements for their student visa application.[20] The Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) is a piece of evidence to prove that the English language requirements for their course are equal to or higher than the requirements for a student visa. However, those foreign students who assessed at a higher immigration risk level will still need to attend an English language test and to provide evidence of their English language proficiency through one of the English tests accepted by Australia with an approved test score.[24]

English language proficiency requirements[edit]

International students who apply to study in Australia will need to meet English language proficiency requirements to obtain a valid student visa.[24] Students must have taken the English language test in the last two years before they apply for a students visa, or the validity will expire.[7]

English language proficiency evidence exemptions[edit]

All international students will need to meet the English language proficiency requirements to gain entry into their course and receive a student visa.[25]

Some international students are exempt from providing evidence of English language proficiency with their visa application if they satisfy one or more of the following requirements:[24][7]

All other students are required to provide evidence of English language proficiency (with a Confirmation of Enrolment(CoE) or a minimum ielts score for australia student visa).

Types of English Language Proficiency tests accepted in Australia[edit]

There are five types of English language proficiency (ELP) tests accepted for student visa applications in Australia:[17]

Minimum English language proficiency test score required[edit]

The requirements for English language proficiency tests scores will vary depending on the institution they choose, their country of citizenship and whether they are preparing to enrol in an English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) course.[24]

For student visa applicants, the minimum scores accepted for each test are listed in the table below.[7]

for the international students who do not meet the English language test requirement, they are suggested to complete an English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) to improve their English language skills.[32]

Minimum scores to meet the Student visa English language requirement[7]
English language test providers Minimum score Minimum score and at least 10 weeks ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) Minimum score and at least 20 weeks ELICOS
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)[27] 5.5 5.0 4.5
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)[28] 46 35 32
Cambridge English: Advanced (Certificate in Advanced English /CAE)[29] 162 154 147
Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)[30] 42 36 30
Occupational English Test (OET)[31] B for each test component / Pass (A orB) Pass (A orB) Pass (A orB)

However, even though the government have provided the minimum English language proficiency tests scores required for student visa application, foreign students may still need to get a higher score to get enrolled into their desire institution and courses.[24] Some specific courses, such as law, education, medical programs, are likely to have a higher requirement, while the requirements for an English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses are usually lower.[24]

Impact on Australia's economy[edit]

According to the survey prepared by Deloitte Access Economics and the Australian government, international education was predicted to contribute about seventeen billion to Australia's GDP in a 2014-15 financial year.[33] This value is the sum of:

  • Twelve billion of direct value which is the paid tuition fee to the education providers and the learning materials and services which sold to the students
  • Five billion of indirect value, which is the payment of the education providers to their suppliers, for example, printing and information technology support services.

Apart from that, international students make a substantial contribution to the development of many regional areas as there is at least five per cent of students living and studying in those communities. In 2014–15, the international student spent about 3 billion of expenditure (for purchasing goods and services) to Melbourne while 900 million indirect value flowed to regional communities and massively supported the agricultural products and other linkages. Finally, the consequence of student consumption supported approximately 12,746 jobs in regional Victoria.[33]

Furthermore, in 2014–2015, The stocks of international students were estimated to deliver about 130,000 skilled migrants after the graduation year. This number of skilled migrants had increased 3% of Australia's current workforce with tertiary education.[33] In the financial year of 2018, international students inject $31.9 billion into the Australian economy, directly boosting Australian jobs and wages, generating jobs, supporting wages, and lifting the living standards of Australia.[34]

International students inject almost $32 billion into Australia's economy each year and support 130,000 Australian jobs. They also bring Australia and the world closer together, and built important diplomatic and personal ties.[35]

According to the warning by NSW auditors, Australian universities is now suffering from a "market concentration risk" since their finance and budget rely too much on foreign student fees. As the report shows, in the New South Wales, the international students tuition fees injects $2.8 billion AUD into universities, which accounts for 28% of the total revenue.[36] The University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, two universities in NSW, accounted for more than 50% of their total revenue from international students' tuition fees.[36]


In recent years, the increasing number of international students in Australia has raised several concerns. One major issue pertains to changes in Australia's international student intake policy and the discrimination based on the economic status of their home countries. Critics argue that Australia discriminates against citizens from certain countries, alleging that these citizens come from nations with lower economic opportunities compared to Australia.[37]

Mental Health problem[edit]

In 2019, there was a reported from Coroners Prevention Unit stating the international students are facing pressure related to study failure, expectation from parents and English language abilities.[38]

Extension of 2019–20 Hong Kong protests into universities campus[edit]

Since March 2019, there has been a number of protests owing to the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill. Some students from Hong Kong would like to support the protest in Hong Kong, but some of them said that they felt being monitored by the mainland students, and were provoked by the students from mainland China even if the Hong Kong students were solely expressing their opinion peacefully.[39] On 24 July 2019, there was a supporting protest at the Great Court of Queensland University (UQ) initiated by Drew Pavlou, a student representative to UQ's senate. The protest was echoed by some students from Hong Kong. They urged for the acceptance of the five requests in Hong Kong (Complete withdrawal of the bill, Withdrawal determining the protests as "riots", cancellation of Political prosecution on the protesters, independent investigation on the violence of the police and the implementation of real universal suffrage), urging for the closure of the Confucius Institute at the Queensland University, shutting down the Xinjiang re-education camps. Nevertheless, the protest was developed into a conflict. Some students from mainland China (The Consulate-General of PRC in Brisbane claimed that also included students from Hong Kong,[40] but it was not proven by other media) initiated anti-separation and anti Hong Kong independence protests. Some mainland destroyed the Lennon Wall and poster established by the Hong Kong students, and openly sang the Chinese National Song. Pavlou was attacked by the Chinese student and was injured.[41][42][43][44][45]

PRC Consul-General in Brisbane responded by confirming the patriotic act of the mainland students and condemning the "anti-Chinese" activities initiated by the Hong Kong students.[46] In October 2019, Pavlou has sought a court order similar to a restraining order against the Chinese Consul-General in Brisbane, Xu Jie.[47]

Immigration policy for international students[edit]

Most international students who come to study in Australia wish to reside here permanently.[9] The student-migration nexus in Australia is pretty complex and is constantly evolving.[18]

The current immigration policy published by Australian government encourages foreign students to work and stay in regional areas, such as Adelaide and Tasmania, by reducing the quota of skilled independent visa[48] entrants (change from subclass 175[49] and subclass 885[50] to subclass 189[48]), and in the meantime increasing the number of skilled regional (provisional) visa[51] (change from subclass 457 to 489[51]).[52][9]

Regional Areas in Australia and Low population growth metropolitan areas[8]
States Areas Postcode
New South Wales Everywhere except Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Wollongong 2311 to 2312, 2328 to 2411, 2410 to 2490, 2536 to 2551, 2575 to 2594, 2618 to 2739, 2787 to 2898
Northern Territory Everywhere in the territory All postcodes
Queensland Everywhere except the greater Brisbane area and the Gold Coast 4124 to 4125, 4133, 4211, 4270 to 4272, 4275, 4280, 4285, 4287, 4307 to 4499, 4515, 4517 to 4519, 4522 to 4899
South Australia Everywhere in the state All postcodes
Tasmania Everywhere in the state All postcodes
Victoria Everywhere except the Melbourne metropolitan area 3211 to 3334, 3340 to 3424, 3430 to 3649, 3658 to 3749, 3753, 3756, 3758, 3762, 3764, 3778 to 3781, 3783, 3797, 3799, 3810 to 3909, 3921 to 3925, 3945 to 3974, 3979, 3981 to 3996
Western Australia Everywhere except Perth and surrounding areas 6041 to 6044, 6083 to 6084, 6121 to 6126, 6200 to 6799
*For use when applying for skilled visas:

In 2017, the government accepted about 162,000 migrants, which was about 10% lower than the accepted amount in 2016. The long-term forecast of the Australian Government aims to set the cap of skilled immigrants to about 160,000.[9] The primary reason behind such decisions is to protect the local workforce and also to diminish the tension between locals and the recent immigrants. For instance, locals believe that the investment and settlement of the immigrants has led to the recent rapid increase in accommodation market price and the decreasing quality of health and welfare in Australia.[9]

One of the primary reasons for some international students to study in Australia is to settle down after their graduation. Hence, the change in the policy will hugely affect the graduation pathway of international students. Since the new policy is published recently, further research will need to be conducted later for obtaining more relevant information to understand its effects on the students. For instance, a survey can be conducted for the selected group.[9]


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