Australia Leads On Foreign Students

Australia leads on foreign students

Jewel Topsfield
The Age
September 8, 2010

AUSTRALIA has the highest proportion of international students enrolled in its tertiary institutions in the world, according to an international study.

The OECD's Education at a Glance report, released last night, found one in five students in tertiary education in Australia in 2008 was from overseas. Australia was ahead of Austria, which had 15.5 per cent foreign students, Belgium (8.6 per cent) and Canada (6.5 per cent) and well ahead of the OECD average of 6.7 per cent.

It was also more reliant on students to pick up the bill for tertiary education than most other developed countries.

Less than half of funding for tertiary institutions in Australia came from the public purse, with 55.7 per cent from private sources such as fees paid by international students.

On average in OECD countries, 69.1 per cent of tertiary education is paid for publicly, with the figure rising as high as 97 per cent in Norway and 96.5 per cent in Denmark.

The international education market is worth $18 billion to the Australian economy and universities depend on fees from foreign students.

International students are a sensitive topic in Australia. Visa numbers plummeted 16 per cent last financial year following restrictions on access to permanent residency after completing courses such as cookery and hairdressing, a crackdown on disreputable colleges and attacks on Indian students.

Ben Jensen, a former OECD analyst, said that while the report did not reflect the drop in international student visas after the immigration crackdown, it did reflect how reliant Australia was on foreign students to prop up university funding.

He said most other countries had been investing heavily in tertiary education while in Australia investment dropped from 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product in 1995 to 1.5 per cent in 2007.