In a presentation showcased at the AIEC conference by Navitas’s Jon Chew and Ethan Fogarty discussed three scenarios surrounding the future of global student flows, and what possible policy changes could mean for growth.
Outlining a market share scenario where Navitas forecasts that global international student numbers will hit 9.1 million by the end of the decade, even more international students would need to “be absorbed into the existing higher education system”.
Australia’s government has recently been recommended a number of policy changes, with Navitas suggesting that is authorities implemented the suggested changes, “continued growth is likely, albeit at a slower rate”.
“Our high level analysis would suggest that if international student numbers grow at 3.7% year on year while domestic student numbers grows at 1.8% year on year, then the international share of students will continue to rise,” Jon Chew told The PIE.
With this level of growth, assuming it was consistent, some universities in Australia could end up being 50:50 domestic and international, according to the scenario set out by Navitas.
However, any unevenness in that growth could see some universities with more than half of their population being international students.
If, as plans stand, the government focuses on a “smaller sector”, looking at the idea of quality over quantity, continued growth would still be expected, albeit at a “slower rate”.
“The risk is uneven growth, with the Group of Eight likely to be picking up more market share, as it has done in the past,” he noted.
The Go8 in Australia has seen an increase in the share of international students since the pandemic, from at least 32% to 38% – even in 2010, during the economic downturn, its shares increased from 26% to 28%.
In other scenarios explored by Chew and Fogarty, the question asked that has also affected both the UK and US in recent times is whether India might overtake China as the leading international student nationality in Australia.
In a baseline forecast conducted by Navitas, the total population aged 18-22 of each country comes into play. In 2019, China’s was 85.9m, and India’s was 123.6m.
China’s international student flows into Australia at the time were far bigger than India’s, with 17% more student share.
The forecast for 2030 for those populations is 84.9m and 121.7m, which means the market share is likely to remain unchanged – and would have to grow by more than 10% a year to even catch China.
“Whilst at the global level it’s not expected India will reach China in terms of outbound student flows, that’s not to say it doesn’t provide greater opportunities for many institutions.
“Given its size and expected growth, India is and will remain the dominant market for many Australian universities and providers for the foreseeable future,” Chew said.
“The Go8 [would] likely be picking up more market share, as it has done in the past”
Finally, Africa was also a focus in the presentation, with exploration of what opportunities it might pose for the Australian sector.
While Navitas forecasts that most countries in Africa will experience growth in their student share in Australia, Nigeria will be the standout performer, as with most English-speaking destinations.
However, Chew noted that because of Australia’s current low market share – only around 1.5% – in Africa, it would be disadvantaged in despite the “significant growth opportunities”.
“Visa policy will be a barrier and we welcome recent recommendations to allow providers to take approved and calculated risks in recruitment without negatively impacting their visa ratings.
“We welcome recent recommendations to allow providers to take approved and calculated risks”
“Adopting a ‘Team Australia’ approach to the continent is likely to deliver the best results but committed investment from government and providers will be necessary given our starting position,” Chew said.
At AIEC, Julian Hill MP who sits on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, called for “Team Australia” to focus on a select number of new markets.
The interim report from the subcommittee noted Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana and Zimbabwe as potential growth markets.
Current migration from Africa into Australia could also offer the sector a helping hand,Chew added.
“Having a growing diaspora of friends and family from countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Sudan may provide a foundation for growth in the number of international students coming to Australia from these same countries.”