International students flocked to Australia in record numbers in 2017, with new figures revealing the largest increase recorded in a single year.


Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the 2017 international education data showed there were more than 624,000 international students in Australia in 2017, an increase of 13 per cent (or almost 71,000 students) on 2016.


“We’re seeing strong growth from a range of countries,” Minister Birmingham said.


International students are voting with their feet, making Australia the third most popular study destination in the world for tertiary students and the second most popular study destination for tertiary students from China and India.


“Since 2014, we’ve seen 54 per cent growth in Chinese student numbers, 62 per cent growth from Brazil, 73 per cent from Colombia, 79 per cent from Sri Lanka, 48 per cent from India and even 113 per cent from Nepal.


“Australia’s schools, universities and training providers are amongst the best in the world and that’s being recognised by students from all over the globe.”


Minister Birmingham said student enrolments grew across all education sectors last year including by 15 per cent in higher education, 17 per cent in VET, 11 per cent in schools, three per cent in English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS), and 14 per cent in non-award courses.


“Our reputation abroad is in no small part because of how students see Australia as a safe and friendly place to live and study, with high-quality and welcoming campuses,” Minister Birmingham said.


“A 2016 survey of more than 65,000 international students studying here found that 93 percent rated safety as a key reason for choosing Australia as a study destination and last year, the Hobsons International Student Survey ranked Australia as the safest and most welcoming country for international students


“In turn, Australia is enriched by their contribution to our communities, and our students benefit from lasting friendships and professional relationships which help prepare them for the opportunities arising in an increasingly globalised and technologically interconnected world.”


Minister Birmingham said international students were also delivering a big boost to the economy, with the ABS recently reporting Australia’s international education export sector was worth $30.9 billion in 2017.


“The benefits of international education flow through to sectors such as retail and tourism, supporting over 130,000 full time jobs across our major cities, and in key regional areas,” Minister Birmingham said.


Minister Birmingham said the continuing growth of international education in 2017 confirmed the success of the education sector, supported by the Turnbull Government, in delivering on Australia’s first National Strategy for International Education 2025.


“The Council for International Education has successfully used its first year of deliberations to collaborate with the sector to build a firm foundation for the sustainable growth of international education,” Minister Birmingham said.


“Last year, the Government strengthened support and protections for international students studying in Australia, including through revisions to the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018.


“These changes raise the bar for all international education providers in important areas such as student welfare, support services and performance of education agents.”


Minister Birmingham said that as chair of the Council he would use 2018 to continue to review and boost the international education sector.


“We’re focused on enhancing the student experience for international students, supporting connections with overseas partners, coordinating marketing efforts offshore and communicating the benefits of international education to the Australian community,” Minister Birmingham said.


The 2017 full year international student data is available at: