Foreign aid

Nov 20, 2013 by

Australia’s universities are so dependent on fees from international students, they would be forced to close some departments without the income the more than 320,000 foreigners provide each year.

Of this total, a quarter are studying at offshore campuses and 29 per cent are from China.

According to the most recent figures from the federal Education Department, the nation’s 39 public universities had total revenues of nearly $24 billion in 2011. Foreign students contributed more than $4 billion in fees and charges to that sum but, because their enrolments fell by about 8000 last year from a peak of 332,600 in 2011, the fee income for 2012 was probably down by more than $100 million – still only a tiny slice out of $4 billion.

Overseas postgraduates are often regarded as the most valuable to some university departments and last year they comprised almost one in three of the 329,000 postgraduates undertaking degrees.


These internationals are pursued for the fees they pay, and because they conduct research, which helps attract outside grants.

In Britain, foreign postgraduates outnumber local students, and have for the past five years.

In Australia, foreign postgraduate enrolments increased by 39 per cent from 2002-12 while domestic numbers rose by 37 per cent.

As with Australian students, the number of foreigners varies markedly from faculty to faculty and subject to subject – and from university to university.

In 2012, RMIT had the largest number of international students, with 26,600 enrolled last year, including 16,800 based offshore. Monash followed with 22,000, including 9500 offshore; Melbourne 12,800, none offshore; and Swinburne 9700, with 3800 offshore.

Across all universities, by far the most popular studies among overseas students are subjects in the broad field of management and commerce. They attracted nearly 165,000 students in 2012, or more than half the 324,000 foreign students enrolled.

Management and commerce includes accounting, sales and marketing, tourism, office studies, and banking and finance – a total of 35 separate subjects although accounting tends to attract more foreign students than any of the others. Overseas students made up 52 per cent of total enrolments in management and commerce last year, with postgraduates comprising 54 per cent of the 95,155 local and international students.

In proportionate terms, information technology is dominated by foreign postgraduates, who comprise 62 per cent of the 14,550 students in Australia undertaking master’s by research and doctoral degrees in IT. Foreign PhD students play a crucial role in keeping Australian IT departments going, through their research and the grants their research attracts.

Engineering is also heavily reliant on overseas postgraduates, whose numbers almost equal the domestic students, although foreign undergraduates make up only 17 per cent of the total. Last year a mere 700 students separated the 10,305 postgraduate domestic engineers from the 9604 international students.

Among all courses, the figures indicate that many international postgraduates complete their bachelor’s degrees in their home countries before enrolling in Australian postgraduate courses.

Most foreign students, however, are in Australia to obtain an undergraduate degree.

via Foreign aid.

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