Australian Embassy

Australian Trade Commissioner (Education) for North Asia Rhett Miller’s speech for CIEET Press Conference 2018

Australian Trade Commissioner (Education) for North Asia Rhett Miller’s speech for CIEET Press Conference 2018

Beijing Landmark Hotel 


Friday 23 March 2018


On behalf of the Australian Trade and Investment Commission it is my great pleasure to be here to update you all on Australian international education offerings and the latest data regarding international students in Australia.

As in past years, Australia remains one of the leading destinations for international education globally.

For the first time, there are now over half a million international students studying in Australia by headcount.  This represents a significant milestone in the history of Australian international education.

Australia’s international student enrolments also hit a new high in 2017 to reach a total of 624,001 for the year. The latest data from the Australian Department of Education and Training reports this as a 13% year-on-year increase from 2016.

Over this same period, student enrolments grew across all education sectors: by 15% in higher education; 17% in VET; 11% in schools; 3% in ELICOS; and 14% in non-award courses.

The top three student source countries were China (30% of all students), India (11%) and Nepal (5%).  

In addition to its commitment to this year’s China International Education Exhibition Tour, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission together with the Australian Chambers of Commerce will be delivering Careers Fairs in Beijing and Shanghai in July to support retuning Chinese students and graduates on their career path.

Indeed, with its location as a gateway to the Asian region, prosperous and innovative economy, and safe and open society, Australia is a special destination for international students.

The current story of international education and the international student experience in Australia is the story of the 21st century.

It is the story of a globalised experience.  As already mentioned, there is now for the first time over half a million international students studying in Australia, making the country’s classrooms some of the most internationalised in the world. 

The genuine international experience that Australia offers Chinese students gives them the chance to develop a cross-cultural skillset and connections which will equip them to deal with the globalised economy and China’s important role in it. 

It is the story of innovation.  Australia has seven universities ranked in the top 100 globally in the QS rankings, an extraordinary achievement for a country of its size making it a leader in research and innovation.  Indeed, it is Australian institutions that were responsible for some of the technological inventions that have made all of our lives in this room better such as wifi, the black box flight recorder, the ultrasound scanner, a vaccine for cervical cancer and the bionic ear, to name just a few.

It is the story of a curriculum that produces flexible and adaptable leaders.  With both single and double degree and diploma offerings, professional degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and a range of research degree options, Australian institutions offer highly flexible curricula that deliver both technical depth and interdisciplinary breadth. 

This flexible approach to curriculum also emphasises the development of soft-skills to enhance employability including critical-thinking, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills.  The emphasis on these skillsets, together with Australia’s generous post-study work rights, has helped put eight Australian universities in the top 100 in the most recent QS graduate employability rankings.

It is a story of sustainable and liveable cities.  Indeed, Australia has three cities ranked in the top 10 most liveable in the world according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index – more than any other nation.  In fact the city of Melbourne, my hometown, has held the number one spot for a record seven consecutive years.  The safety, convenience and environmental-friendliness of Australian towns and cities makes them a great place to live as well as a place to study.

It is the story of a supportive and diverse community.  Nearly half of all Australians were born overseas or have a parent born overseas, so there are few more multicultural and welcoming places on earth to study. 

Moreover, because they have been welcoming international students for a long time, Australian institutions offer comprehensive support systems for them in the areas of career guidance, academic support and health services.  Indeed, Australia was the first country in the world to protect international students rights in law through the ESOS Act and Regulations.

Partly as a result of these services, 89% of international students surveyed in the International Student Barometer stated they were satisfied with their study experience in Australia.

Finally, the story of Australian international education is the story of a better tomorrow for both China and Australia.  Australia excels in areas of education that are critical to China’s future.  In areas such as biotechnology, data analytics, blockchain technology, aged care, tourism and early childhood studies, Australia offers world leading vocational and higher education offerings that directly complement the training and skills that China will need as it moves towards a tech-driven services-oriented economy. 

But more importantly than all this, it is the connections that are made through the international student experience, and the links between Chinese and Australian students that will create a more open and accommodating world for all of us in this room.

And on that positive note, I look forward to seeing many of you in Australia in the future.