Carmen Neghina
2 years ago

Booming student interest for Australia


Booming student interest for Australian universities - report 2018

[REPORT] As the competition for international students has intensified, Australia has managed to increase its appeal towards international students through a broad range of strategies, from consolidating its reputation as a quality study destination, employability, and favorable visa regulations.

Education is currently Australia’s third-largest export sector and the country’s leading service export sector overall, with international education alone bringing AUS$32.2 billion in 2017.

As a result of a collaboration agreement between Austrade and Studyportals, this report details Australia’s competitive position based on global website analytics data of over 190,000 English-taught programmes. The report also includes an overview of the state of international student mobility, global competition, source countries for Australian universities and areas of competitive advantage to support institution decision- making on strategic planning, marketing, and recruitment initiatives.


Australia is set to become the second most popular international student destination by 2019, despite its relatively small size compared to the world’s leader in hosting international students, the United States. However, with students having more options to choose from than ever, Australia is no longer just competing for international students with the United States and the United Kingdom, but also Canada, Germany, the Netherlands or Sweden. With the increase of English-taught programmes in these destinations, their capacity to recruit internationally has been steadily increasing in just the past years. Similarly, Asian universities are also starting to look at following the same pattern, which can be a potential threat for regional student recruitment strategies.


The changing demographics will surely impact student recruitment strategies at Australian universities in the years to come. While Australian universities are very reliant on China, where the numbers of college-aged students are flattening, we do see a strong potential in recruiting students from other key sending countries which are showing a strong interest in Australia. While their numbers can never fully replace the reliance on Chinese students, they can help universities protect against possible dips or slowdowns from Chinese students.


  • In 2018, the top sending countries to Australia were China, with 192k students, followed by India (81k), Nepal (39k), Malaysia (25k), and Brazil (24k).
  • Students hailing from India, The United States, and the UK show the most interest in obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Australia
  • Students hailing from India, Pakistan, and The United States show the most interest in obtaining a Master’s degree in Australia
  • Management and Commerce, Information Technology, and Engineering are most popular with international students looking to study in Australia
  • The interest in certain disciplines generates the opportunity for Australian universities to promote study programmes in Agriculture & Forestry, Medicine & Health, Hospitality, Leisure & Sports, and Engineering & Technology


As for some Australian universities this might mean branching out to new source countries for student recruitment, we do advise universities to consider a targeted recruitment approach that takes into account the characteristics of each country, but also takes into the account student interests per source country, and for large source countries, even local or city-level interest data in order to effectively target students and improve the return on such large investments.

Overall, Australia is showing booming interest and is continuing to consolidate its position as a strong international education player. We welcome your questions/suggestions/experiences on this report at to continue the conversation.

The report is available to subscribers of Austrade’s Market Information Package and can be accessed here.

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