The Numbers

An at a glance look at the numbers that show the size and how things have moved in the International Education industry.

International student data

The Australian government and other organisations record and report statistics relating to international student mobility, economic trends and employment participation in the sector. As a result, professionals, planners and researchers have access to extensive data resources.

Some caution is required when quoting figures. These change during the year, and figures are sometimes a little inconsistent across sources. Here are some recent fast facts:

  • 564,869 international students enrolled in Australian institutions at July 2017. This is 15% more students than in July 2016.
  • Education export earnings rose to a record $22 billion in 2016, more than 17% higher than in 2015.
  • In 2016, most international students were in higher education courses (43%) followed by VET (26.3%), ELICOS (21.2)%, Non-award courses such as pathways programs, cross-institutional student and professional courses (over 6%) and Schools (3.3%).
  • The top five source countries are China, India, Nepal, Malaysia and Vietnam.
  • Between 2015-2016, the highest growth rate of international student commencements occurred in Victoria (12.0%), followed by NSW (9.6%)and Tasmania (9.4%).

Depending what you need, several sources of data are available to practitioners and researchers. Some of these most accessible sources are listed below.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) publishes a number of reports. These are downloadable as pdf files and include:

  • Student statistical reports that give data on student visas lodged, granted and processing times.
  • Annual reports that show trends on the student visa program.
  • Student visa applications lodged​​/granted pivot tables. The pivot tables are explained through a guidance note on the DIBP website. These tables show comparisons with previous years

The Australian Education International website contains an extensive collection of data and research reports on a range of student matters  that are useful for recruitment, planning and student management.

The AEI research snapshots contain clear, topical and accessible information that aims to provide the most current data available in the public domain. They include information across all education sectors and locations. Some examples appear below.

International student numbers

The November 2016 snapshot, for example, describes higher education international students studying onshore by university, and as a proportion of all students in those institutions.

Export income of international education

This infographic describes export income as a result of international student enrolments, including the statement that international education supports over 130,000 jobs nationally

Study locations

This AEI June 2016 snapshot describes the geographical distribution of international students, including data on capital cities and regional areas at 2015. For example, in 2016, Queensland had the highest proportion of its total international student enrolments in regional campuses, with almost a third (32%) of students studying outside of its capital city

Pathway programs

AEI reported in 2016 that over half of international students undertake study in more than one educational sector during their Australian education experience. The flexibility of pathway programs is an attractive aspect of Australian international education.

International student surveys

Every two years since 2010, the Australian Government has funded a national survey of international students across Australia’s major education sectors. The 2016 survey is the biggest so far, with over 65,000 international students participating. The information offers insights into student decisions, satisfaction and experiential factors across education sectors, including schools. It considers types of cohorts such as scholarship students, national groups and market trends.

Other statistical information

A number of other sources of information offer statistical data on international education. It is common to find statistical information in research reports and strategy documents covering aspects the international education industry, for example:

The National Strategy for International Education 2025

City of Melbourne. (2013). A great place to study: International student strategy 2013-2017.

In addition, the Australian government provides regular reports and data sources from Australian and international organisations.

For further information about the Australian government’s research, contact the International Research and Analysis Unit by email at

The Research Snapshot series can be accessed here