Western Australia’s universities are facing new challenges in attracting international students, with the high Australian dollar and rising costs of living in the state contributing to a drop in enrolments, particularly in business courses.
Figures obtained by Business News reveal most institutions are combatting shrinking enrolments in the lucrative international student cohort.
Enrolments for management and commerce courses in particular have fallen – by nearly 30 per cent since 2010 at some providers.
International enrolments in Edith Cowan University’s undergraduate business courses have dropped by 28 per cent since 2010, not taking into account 2013 figures.
Over just one year – between 2011 and 2012 – enrolments reduced by a quarter. Postgraduate enrolments have not performed much better, with a 22 per cent reduction over 2010-2012.
The university’s acting vice-chancellor, Arshad Omari, said the trend had continued this year.
“Our domestic student business enrolments have remained steady in recent years,” Professor Omari told Business News.
“However, like many Australian universities, we have experienced a decline in international enrolments.
“This is due to the high Australian dollar, changes to visa regulations and growing competition from other education markets. In particular, we are seeing competing overseas education markets become much more aggressive in their international student recruitment.”
Curtin University Business School takes the largest number of international business students of any of the major universities – for the first half of this year it had just less than 3,000 international students.
It too has experienced a drop in enrolments. Last year’s total-year enrolments for international students in postgraduate business courses were 11 per cent lower than the year before; a 17 per cent decrease since 2010.
Undergraduate enrolments had fallen by the same amount.
The University of Western Australia’s Business School has not been immune from the drop-off in enrolments by international students.
This year’s enrolment numbers were 10 per cent lower than the 2012 intake of international students in undergraduate courses, while postgraduate numbers were 17 per cent lower.
Education provider Navitas said enrolments for its international business courses had fallen, but that this was a trend only occurring in WA.
“There are probably a number of factors behind this trend, but certainly WA’s high cost of living would be a factor for international students when comparing business course offerings,” a spokesperson told Business News.
It said declining enrolments in business courses were being made up by an increased intake in engineering, communications and health courses.
Murdoch University was the only institution to report increases in international enrolments. Enrolments for first semester courses remained steady this year compared to 2012, but that followed a doubling of international enrolments in postgraduate courses a year earlier.
Of the four large universities, Murdoch takes the smallest number of student for business courses with a total of 197 international students last year.