The data from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment shows commencements dropped by 21.9% compared to 2019, while total enrolments decreased by 7.3% to 882,482.
Higher Education accounted for almost half of all enrolments with (418,168) which represents an 8% downturn compared to 2019.
“In the VET sector India contributed the largest share of enrolments”
The ELICOS sector saw the most significant decrease in enrolments, dropping to its lowest level since 2012. There were 104,626 enrolments in that sector, down 33% on the previous year.
Vocational Education however bucked the trend, recording a growth of 9.2% in commencements and enrolments up by almost 26,000 to 307,295.
DESE warned however that the data should be interpreted “with caution” as an enrolment does not confirm that a student was in Australia at the time of reporting.
Overall China remains the leading source country for international students in Australia, drawing 28% of all enrolments, followed by India (17%), Nepal (8%), Vietnam (4%) and Brazil (3%). In the VET sector however it is India contributing the largest share of enrolments (21.0%) followed by Nepal (10.6%) China (7.1%) and Brazil (6.8%).
As previously reported by The PIE, a declining interest from India represents a major concern for Australia’s higher education sector with an unprecedented drop in the number of new students from that region commencing study with Australian institutes in the July-November period, official figures showing a decrease of more than 80% compared to the previous year.
International student fees represent around 27% of Australian universities operating revenue, with institutions collectively receiving $10 billion in foreign student fees in 2019.
Australian universities shed at least 17,300 jobs in 2020 and lost an estimated $1.8 billion in revenue compared to 2019, according to Universities Australia, which represents 39 universities across the country.
Universities Australia estimates the sector will lose a further 5.5%, or $2 billion, in 2021.