The enrolment of Indian students looking to pursue higher education in Australia has suffered a significant fall since late 2009.
Statistics from Australian Education International, the international arm of the Australian government's department of education, employment and workplace relations, show that overall enrolment for higher education of Indian students dropped from 1,20,913 in 2009 to 1,00,236 in November 2010. Enrolment of Indian students for vocational education institutes in Australia had also dropped with 79,200 registered in November 2009. The numbers subsequently fell to 75,884 during the corresponding period the following year.
Attributing the decline to a combination of factors, Harvinder Singh of IDP Education India Private Limited, said: "Primarily, this is because the Australian dollar has gained in strength due to which the cost of higher education has gone up. Also, the visa norms were made stricter by the Australian High Commission from September 2008. It became difficult for parents to show financial support with these norms in place. Thirdly, there were incidents of Indians being targeted in Australia and that might have contributed to the fall in numbers."
Speaking on the sidelines of an education fair involving 14 Australian universities here on Sunday, Singh said the vocational education sector in Australia, parts of which were primarily immigration-driven, had taken a beating as well. "As far as students from the south are concerned, most of them are going to pursue their PhDs. States like Punjab and Gujarat were impacted by the slump in the vocational education sector," he said.
University representatives at the fair said they had not received any queries from students on the security issue. "Before coming to Chennai we have done road shows in Kochi, Kolkata and Bangalore. We were surprised that no one asked us about security issues in Australia. Students are well-informed and come to us with course-specific questions," said Ashini Malhotra, marketing manager, South Asia and Middle East, Griffith University.
According to Jamal Qureshi, South Asia regional marketing manager, Western Australia trade office, students' queries focussed on employment opportunities after the course and accommodation. "Social networking websites have made our job a lot easier because students interact with peers living in Australia and get information. The Australian government has taken stringent steps to ensure students' safety such as increased patrolling, installing more CCTV cameras, and having the local sheriff speak to students about do's and don'ts in Australia. While these systems have always been in place, there is greater emphasis on them now," he said.