NEW international student commencements continue to fall, dropping 9.5 per cent, or more than 32,000 students, as at the end of October.
According to government agency Australian Education International, total enrolments in Australia are down 1.4 per cent at 599,795 students.
The drop in commencements has worsened marginally from a 9.3 per fall as at end-September, but the fall in total enrolments has accelerated from a drop of 0.9 per cent.
The figures come as the government continues to be pressured by the international education sector to ease tighter visa restrictions on students that it fears are discouraging applications.
As previously reported in The Australian, research by the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy has highlighted that students seeking an Australian visa have to have substantially more money behind them to qualify compared with the US, Canada and Britain.
In a statement today the Australian Technology Network of universities said the visa system was "threatening to the derail'' the industry.
"We have a ridiculous situation whereby the level of proof required by students from our key markets of China and India are substantially more onerous than for that required by students from Singapore and Malaysia,'' Ross Milbourne, ATN chairman and vice chancellor of University of Technology, Sydney, said.
International students seeking a local visa need to prove they have sufficient funds to cover tuition fees and living costs for the duration of their stay, which for a three-year degree would amount to at least $108,000, the Curtin Institute said. In comparison, it is about $40,500 in the US and $23,000-$25,000 in Canada, Britain and New Zealand.
As of October, enrolments in higher education remain 8.4 per cent up on a year ago, while commencement growth has slowed to 1.9 per cent. But the sector is braced for a substantial drop in numbers next year, especially in the second semester with some universities budgeting for falls of as much as 25 per cent.
The Curtin Institute has forecast that falling international student numbers in higher education could cost the economy as many as 19,000 jobs by 2012.
TAFEs and their agents are warning of between 30 per cent and 40 per cent decline in commencements next year, TAFE Directors Australia said yesterday.
Commencements in vocational education and training are down 8.2 per cent as of October. Enrolments are up just 0.4 per cent.
The English language college sector, which feeds both higher education and VET, remains the worst hit with enrolments down 18 per cent and commencements down 22.3 per cent.
(Source: The Australian)