Wednesday, November 17, 2010


China enrolments in free-fall The Australian

China enrolments in free-fall

Michael Sainsbury, China correspondent
From: The Australian November 17, 2010 12:00AM Increase

AUSTRALIA is facing an "abyss" of falling enrolments from China.
This comes as the risk-averse market takes in news of yet another tightening of study-linked immigration rules.

Education agents, who account for at least 80 per cent of student applications to overseas universities, are concerned the latest changes by Labor in the past 12 months discriminate against the undergraduate and feeder courses that make up at least 50 per cent of the Chinese market.

"The situation is the most severe it has been in past 20 years," Li Ping, chief executive of Aoji, one of China's biggest education agents, said.

"Universities from the US, Britain and Canada are developing market shares rapidly, but Australian immigration regulations are not having a positive effect."

Mr Li said compared to last year, enrolments for 2010 from China have declined by as much as 40 per cent. "I'm afraid a further downfall of 10 even to 20 per cent might now occur for next year," Mr Li said.

"If this momentum is not stopped, the Australian educational market will drop to an abyss, with a slim hope of getting out of it."

Agents and university representatives in China are also worried that tougher new English requirements will spook the risk-averse Chinese, sending students to rival countries.

"The new English requirements are incredibly severe, even I don't know if I could pass it, it's a major issue," said one Australian tertiary education representative who asked not to be named.

The new immigration rules came as clear evidence emerges that more welcoming policies instituted by the US in the past 18 months are winning Chinese students at Australia's expense.

Chinese student enrolments in the US have surged, increasing 30 per cent to 128,000 and represent more than 18 per cent of the total international student population in the country.

This makes China the No.1 source of international students in the US higher education system for the first time, according to a report released by the Washington-based Institute of International Education.

In China, at least 80 per cent of foreign student places are sold by government-approved third-party agents. Marketers from international universities and colleges train counsellors at the agents' offices in how to sell their courses.

Counsellors then meet students and try to find the institutions that will be the best fit, taking into account students' various educational and immigration needs, as well as their academic abilities and available funds.

In general, agents devote particular counsellors to certain countries or regions, depending upon demand. As demand changes, for instance the recent surge in preference towards study in the US, agents train more counsellors to sell courses into certain territories. Such decisions on staff training and resourcing are medium-term business decisions and influence where students are encouraged to go.

The HES has learned a number of leading agents have been moving staff from selling courses in Australia to selling courses in the US and Canada.

Additional reporting: Zhang Yufei

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