Indians set to become Australia’s largest group of foreign students

The intake from China sees a decline due to deteriorating ties between the two countries

October 13, 2022 02:13 am | Updated October 14, 2022 05:21 pm IST

Monica Kennedy, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Austrade. File

Monica Kennedy, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Austrade. File | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

New student arrivals in Australia this year will see Indians become its largest group of foreign students as the intake from China sees a decline due to deteriorating ties between the two countries.

As of July 2022, 96,000 Indian students were studying in Australia, forming the second largest group of foreign students after China.

“But the number of commencing students from India is growing very quickly, and we expect this to be the largest group from anywhere in the world,” says Monica Kennedy, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Austrade in an interview to The Hindu.

Though the number of new student arrivals from India between July 2022 and June 2023, the Australian financial year, is marginally less than the 45,000 seen in 2019, their size relative to new arrivals from China has shown a growth.

The top source

China is the top source for international students, and Indians the second biggest for key destinations for higher education globally such as the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. But India’s share is only half of China or less.

Between January 2021 and December 2021, Australia saw a total of 5,70,626 foreign students. Though across nationalities there was a decline in the number of students as compared to 2020 post COVID-19, China contributed 1.70 lakh or 30% of all foreign students in Australia and India contributed 97,000 or 17%, according to data compiled by the Australian government’s Department of Education.

In the U.S. too, 3,17,299 Chinese students comprised 34.6% of total foreign students in academic year 2020-2021, while Indians were the second largest group at 1.67 lakh or 18.3%, according to the Open Door report funded by the U.S. government.

Chinese students were 32% of the total overseas students in the U.K. at 1,43,820 in 2021. India was the second non-EU country to send the most students to the U.K. at 84,555 or nearly 9.2% of the total foreign students in the U.K., according to the website Study in the UK.

Lack of enthusiasm

However, not just Australia but the U.S. is also seeing a dampening of enthusiasm from Chinese students. A new report last month by the Centre for China and Globalisation, a leading Chinese non-governmental think tank based in Beijing, said the number of Chinese students in both the U.S. and Australia had decreased due to the worsening China-U.S. relations as well as trade and geopolitical disputes between China and Australia and that more Chinese students might switch to countries in Europe and Asia because of friendlier study environments and visa policies.

According to the report, the number of Chinese students in the U.S. in the 2020-2021 academic year saw the first decline in 10 years, falling 14.6% from 2019-2020. The number of Chinese students in Australia decreased for two years, with a drop of 11.9% in 2021 and 9.9% in 2020.

India has also overtaken China as the largest nationality being issued sponsored study visas in the U.K. with nearly 1,18,000 Indian students receiving a student visa in the year ending June 2022 — a 215% increase from 2019. About 1.15 lakh Chinese students were issued sponsored study visa in the same period, which is a 4% decline as compared to 2019.

“Of late Chinese students have not been leaving home [to study abroad], so the number of Indians is going up. This is also supported by rising aspirations as well as paying capacity of Indian students. At Deakin University our focus has always been on India followed by China and then the rest of the world. While most other universities in Australia have so far focused on Chinese students, that will now change,” says  Ravneet Pawha, Vice-President (Global Alliances) & CEO (South Asia), Deakin University, National Vice-Chair, Australia India Business Council.

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