Education exports hit record high of nearly US$17 billion

Export earnings from selling Australian higher education to foreign students reached a record high of nearly A$22 billion (US$16.8 billion) in 2016 – an astonishing 17% increase on the total for the previous year and the biggest annual growth rate since 2010.
Educating international students continues to be Australia’s third largest export earner, behind only iron ore and coal.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said Australia’s global outlook and excellent reputation for the quality of education and research in the nation’s universities were key factors in the growth.
“The outstanding education that our universities provide to some of the best and brightest students from right around the world is a vital part of Australia’s economy,” Robinson said.

“Australia is a beacon for international students because they know they’ll get a world-class education, global alumni networks, a great student experience and lifelong ties and friendships with Australia.”

Higher education was a crucial sector to Australia’s future in many ways and well beyond the export income that supports Australian jobs and wages, she said. “The experience of international students during their university years in Australia also creates powerful personal, cultural, diplomatic and trade ties between Australia and the rest of the world.”

Robinson noted that the total value of international education exports could be even higher because the A$21.8 billion sum for 2016 earnings did not include education consultancy services, royalties from intellectual property or income from correspondence courses.
International student numbers soar

Based on Education Department statistics, it seems likely that some 400,000 foreign students were undertaking courses in Australian universities last year – 28% of the total student population.

In 2015, 363,300 overseas students were on campus in Australia, a number that had jumped by nearly 8% compared with the previous year.
The capacity of Australian universities to boost their income from selling courses to foreign students is shown by the rapid increase in numbers.

In 2005, overseas students numbered less than 240,000 while a decade earlier only 52,000 foreigners were enrolled – out of a total university enrolment of 604,000. Foreign students comprised less than 9% of the total in 1995 – a ratio that has risen three-fold in 20 years.