International education services were Australia’s fourth-largest export before COVID, worth about $40 billion a year. Tuition fees paid by international students totalled $17 billion in 2019, including $10 billion in fees paid to Australian universities.

Download the presentation here

In this presentation to the International Education Association of Australia, Brendan Coates and Natasha Bradshaw evaluate the benefits and risks of diversifying Australia’s international education sector, especially into vocational-level tuition. 

More than 270,000 student visas were granted for VET-level study in Australia in 2022, and a further 80,000 visas were granted for English-language study, adding $8.5 billion and $2 billion respectively to Australia’s international education exports. But VET and English-language students tend to spend less while studying in Australia, including on tuition fees. VET and English-language students are drawn from a wider range of countries than those studying at Australian universities. 

Past Grattan Institute work shows that while there are significant short-term benefits for Australia from international students, the biggest economic benefits come from attracting students with the highest-earning potential the best-performing students to study here and stay in Australia permanently. 

About 13 per cent of all primary applicants for permanent skilled visas once held a student visa for vocational study in Australia. And half of all former VET students who have secured permanent residency since 2000 did so via employer sponsorship. Yet across all age groups, former VET students who secure permanent residency earn less than those who were granted permanent residency after studying at Australian university or never held a student visa in Australia.