Overseas Students in Australian Higher Education: a Quick Guide

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that, in 2017–18, international education was worth $32.4 billion to the Australian economy, up from $28.1 billion in 2016–17. Recent research for the Department of Education (DoE) shows Australia also gains social, cultural and skilled workforce benefits from international education.   

This quick guide provides an overview of key information related to overseas students in Australian higher education. Higher education accounted for 68.5 per cent ($22.2 billion) of international education export income in 2017–18, and 45.6 per cent of all overseas student enrolments in 2018.[1] Overseas students also enrol in Australian vocational education and training (VET), schools, English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS), and non-award courses. However, each of these accounts for fewer students and has less economic impact than overseas student enrolments in higher education.    


Overseas student statistics are available from the DoE’s international student data webpage. The latest full-year data is for 2018. As shown in Figure 1 below, there were 398,563 higher education enrolments by people in Australia on student visas.

Enrolments include new and continuing students. Enrolment figures can double count students who complete one course of study and enrol in another within given period. For example, a student may complete an ELICOS course and then enrol in a bachelor degree, and have both enrolments counted in the same year.

Source: https://www.aph.gov.au