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 from The Department of Education, Skills and Employment:

  • In 2019, international students as a proportion of all students studying onshore were enrolled at Federation University in Victoria (49.6%), Torrens University in Adelaide (49.3%), Bond University, Queensland (46.8%) and The University of Sydney (42.2 %).
  • International education was worth $37.5 billion to the Australian economy in 2019-20.
  • In 2019-20 students studying outside Australia due to travel restrictions paid $1.44 billion paid as tuition  fees.
  • As an effect of travel restrictions because of the COVID 19 pandemic, by November 2020, there were a total of 101,628 enrolment deferments.
  • At the end of November 2020, 34,066 (34%) of students had since recommenced studying or finished, 33,743 (33%) had a new proposed start date – 9% in 2020, 89% in 2021 and 9% after 2021.

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 Home Affairs (DHA) 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 DHA website. These tables show comparisons with previous years

Australian Government websites contain an extensive collection of data and research reports on a range of student matters  that are useful for recruitment, planning and student management.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment 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.

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, student numbers, visa grants, export income

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment snapshots provide an historical analysis of the numbers and locations of international students who have studied in Australia on student visas from 2002 to 2020. The snapshots include  the geographical distribution of international students, including data on capital cities and regional areas. visa grants, export income and summary information about student outcomes are included in the snapshots.

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 remains an attractive aspect of Australian international education.

International student surveys

Every two years since 2010, the Australian Government funded a national survey of international students across Australia’s major education sectors.The 2018 survey gathered date from over 80,000 international students. The information offered insights into student decisions, satisfaction and experiential factors across education sectors, including schools. It considered types of cohorts such as scholarship students, national groups and market trends.

The Student Experience Survey (SES) currently provides a national architecture for collecting data on key aspects of the higher education student experience, both among domestic and international students. The SES measures five aspects of the student experience: Skills Development, Learner Engagement, Teaching Quality, Student Support, and Learning Resources. A total of 86,729 international students responded to the 2020 SES.

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