Supporting the independent education community

International student sector: State of the industry


The international student sector was gone through an unprecedented crisis over the last two years.


The pandemic and associated border closures have put a huge hole in normal business approach for the industry, which relies on a regular stream of international students coming into the country.


The English Australia Market Report released in February 2022 lays out the damage done over the first two years of the pandemic, and it paints a dire picture. In December 2021, ELICOS commencements declined by nearly 58 percent, while enrolments were down by over 60 percent. Bear in mind that these declines were off an already low base, with December 2020 itself well down on the previous year, the last pre-pandemic year. To put these decreases in raw numbers, in 2019, there were around 130,000 ELICOS enrolments, while the number last year was just 35,000.


It’s a similar story across other areas catering to international students, with the VET sector down some 25,000 students, the non-award sector down 13,000 students and higher education around 80,000 lower. The declines were similar across all source countries, with commencements from China (which makes up over a quarter of all students) down nearly 50%, and from Colombia and Brazil by around 70 percent.


But amidst the gloom, there are some green shoots, with ELICOS-only Visa lodgements up by nearly 70 percent, while the UK is reporting record numbers of Chinese students in recent months. With international borders now open again, the sector can hope to see a steady (if slow) recovery over 2022 and in future years.


Read more Future Perfect (March 2022):