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Australia: Post-recovery growth establishes a new ‘normal’

September Year to Date statistics from Australia show a 17% rise in student visa applications for ELICOS programmes and a 15% increase for higher education, the sector’s best performance since peak year 2009, but there is a sharp slow-down of growth from July to September, reflecting a levelling off of post-recovery growth.

Monthly time series of Stock, Flow and Year to Date of Student Enrolments – All Sectors.

Indian ELICOS commencements have experienced triple digit growth

“I have been surprised at the way that the strong growth continued well beyond what you would expect from ‘rebound growth’”

“I think we have seen an intense period of recovery following the period of decline and should expect to see this now stabilising at a ‘normal’ level of growth and therefore 2014-15 should see the industry overtaking the previous peak,” Sue Blundell, Executive- Director of ELICOS peak body English Australia told The PIE News.

India leads most source countries in terms of percentage increase across all sectors (+32.2%), but there have been booms in visa applications from Mongolia, Iraq, Nepal, Hong Kong, Mexico, Venezuela, Italy, Taiwan and Thailand, reflecting a healthy global mix and providing well spread opportunities.

YTD Indian commencements for September meanwhile experienced triple digit growth in ELICOS programmes (+3,649), driven mostly by demand for English with Masters programmes.

Blundell pointed out that growth across ELICOS packed with HE means stand-alone ELICOS centres need to explore new markets and partners.

“My advice to our language centres is do as much as you can to educate yourself on the key drivers for students and agents in their choice of destination and understand the unique offer that Australia has so that you can articulate this clearly,” said Blundell.

The levelling of commencements of the last three months, which saw growth of only 0.4% compared to 28% growth in the first half of 2014, can partly be attributed to the Science Without Borders (SwB) programme which distorted normal patterns.

On the upside ELICOS visa data, reflecting non-SwB students, showed the offshore visa grants for Brazil during July to September were actually up by +38%.

“I have been slightly surprised at the way that the strong growth continued well beyond what you would expect from ‘rebound growth,’” said Blundell. “The growth is now slowing down for ELICOS but that is to be expected as enrolments stabilise at a new level.”

China still accounts for the vast majority of overall student commencements (24.2%), followed by India (11.1%) and Vietnam (5.0%).

However, Southeast Asia as a whole is driving growth in ELICOS students particularly from Vietnam and Thailand. Vietnam is now sending soley packaged ELICOS programmes while Thailand has sent large numbers of stand-alone ELICOS students.

“It is good to see that the growth was strongest for offshore visas, while there still exists an onshore market”

In the HE sector, YTD commencements are up by 4,821 reflecting an appetite for Australia as an HE destination with post-study work rights.

After China and India, growth has been spurred by Malaysia and Vietnam which have increased by 234 commencements and 811 commencements respectively.

Peak body for the HE sector, Universities Australia (UA) said the increase in 18 of Australia’s top 20 source markets is an encouraging sign for the sector that shows a “return to trend.”

“It is also good to see that the growth was strongest for offshore visas, while there still exists an onshore market as students seek to extend their study in Australia following English language or other study,” Ainslie Moore, Policy Director International, UA told The PIE News.

The Non-Award sector (foundation studies and study abroad), also recorded its best ever numbers of commencements for this YTD September period.

The YTD September statistics are based on AEI student enrolment data, derived from the Provider Registration and International Students Management System (PRISMS) database and counts enrolments by students studying in Australia on a student visa.

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