Dangerous lack of student diversity for the main study abroad countries

Australia’s new Strategy for international Education sets the government’s strategy for the next ten years. According to the report “The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that dependence on a small number of markets is not sustainable.” Students from only five countries make up 72% of the international student population in Australia. This has flagged the over-concentration of source countries as a risk to the Higher Education Sector.

The extent of that risk, however, is by no means limited to Australia. The Big Four destination countries for International Education – Australia, the UK, the US, and Canada all face similar issues – and a similar risk.

The main study abroad destinations’ overreliance on two sending markets

A recent study from Studyportals and Unibuddy highlights the high degree of reliance that some of the world’s leading study destinations have on two key sending markets: China and India. As we see in the chart below, the US, UK, Australia, and Canada all rely on those two countries alone — albeit in varying proportions – for roughly half of their foreign enrolment base.

Dangerous lack of student diversity for the main study abroad countries, Verbalists Education News
Photo: Study Abroad – Share of international enrolments for selected destinations. Source: Studyportals/Unibuddy

The concentration of students from certain countries not only impacts the diversity of perspectives in the classroom, it also lowers the resilience of universities to changes in global demand. As Australia’s new Strategy for International Education report points out: “A lack of diversity in international student cohorts exposes providers to financial risks if there are market disruptions or if one market declines suddenly.”


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