The number of full-paying international students for 2013 of 526,932 represents a 2.6% increase in enrollment compared to 2012. However, this is still a long way to go to the 7% annual growth rate of 7% that Australia has to attain if it wants to maintain its share of the international student market. In fact the 2.6% increase in 2013 is still very much below the average annual growth rate of 5.9% over the last 10 years.
According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report, after several good years that peaked in 2009, in the years 2010 through 2012 there was a sharp decline in the enrollment of international students in the country. This drop in enrollment was attributed to the following factors, among others:
- Strict requirements for visa application
- High value of Australian dollar
- Strong competition from other countries
Where it hurts most
As noted in both the ABS and the Australian Education International (AEI) reports, the nationalities whose numbers declined considerably were from India, China, Nepal, and Pakistan among others. In fact the top 10 contributor countries which include these four countries had a 9.1% accumulated decrease in enrollment.
The sector that was greatly affected by this decrease in enrollment was the Vocational Education and Training (VET) which comprise 25.6% of total international student enrollment. VET showed a 6.4% decline in enrollment in 2012. VET enrollment is mostly from India, China and South Korea.
Reasons for an upbeat prediction
The outcome of the Review of the Student Visa Assessment Level Frameworkwhich was released last 29 October 2013
The report embodies recommendations that will simplify the Assessment Level (AL) Framework for student visas starting March 22, 2014. The recommendations that are seen to impact significantly in the prospective increase in the number of international students in Australia are:
- Recommendation 3: That the AL framework be simplified to comprise AL1, AL2 and AL3.
Benefited by this recommendation are former AL4 applicants. There are no known applicants for the AL5 level. AL4 visa applicants will now be elevated to the AL3 level. This means that the level of evidence for financial capacity, English language proficiency and previous study that they are required to provide will be reduced. This also means the removal of the English language test which is a requirement for English language study of AL4 and English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) visa applicants.
- Recommendation 4: That the financial requirement for AL3 applicants be reduced to 12 months evidence of funds with the condition that these funds be provided by a close relative of the applicant.
For AL3 level visa applicants, the financial requirement of 18 months was reduced to 12 months. This brings Australia’s financial requirement for international student visa in conformity with those of major competitor countries.
Enrollment to VET and English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) is expected to increase considerably because of these two changes. Students from India, China, Pakistan, Nepal and more comprise a large majority of enrollment to VET and ELICOS courses. They were formerly in the AL4 level, but with the upgrade and the reduction of financial requirement they will now have a better chance to gain entry to the Australian educational system.