International students

 in the community

International students account for around 1 in 50 people in Australia. Together they’re the face of Australia’s fourth largest export sector, which supports more than 240,000 jobs across the country.

More than this, international students have a tremendous impact on the communities in which they live, study and work. We can see and feel, all around us, the benefits they bring: food, culture and diversity; new knowledge and global networks; different ways of thinking.


When international students come to study in Australia, they gain an understanding of our country and its culture. They develop networks and friendships that will remain with them for life, wherever their careers take them.


Among local students and the broader Australian community, international students can inspire a global curiosity – a desire to see and understand more of the world around us. Because when we open our eyes and minds, we realise that (just like international students) we’re all citizens of the world.


International students broaden all of our horizons. Here’s a brief snapshot of the positive impact they have on communities across Australia.

Boosting the economy

International students are part of the cultural fabric across many Australian cities and regional centres. In 2019, we hosted over 750,000 students – from 195 countries – which works out to be around 1 in 50 people. As our fourth largest export, the international education sector is worth more than $40 billion to the economy each year and supports more than 240,000 jobs.


International students support many other sectors during their studies, generating substantial demand for food, housing, transport, retail and entertainment services. They also provide a huge boost to the tourism industry when family and friends come to visit.


International graduates can help meet the growing demand for skilled graduates, particularly when employers are unable to find a suitable local candidate. Employers can also benefit from having access to a ready workforce of students able to take up casual employment during their studies. Being able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight (full-time during study breaks) allows international students to contribute to productivity, improve their job-related skills and be a part of local communities.


Beyond jobs and export dollars, international students benefit Australia in so many ways. International students make a significant contribution to the lifestyle and vitality of our cities and regional centres. They bring new ideas and fresh perspectives, support social and cultural diversity, and enrich local workplaces and communities.
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    Did you know?

Australia’s largest service export, and 4th largest export overall behind coal, iron ore and natural gas.


(Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018)

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Almost 1 in 50 people in Australia are international students.


(Department of Education and Training)


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    Did you know?

International education supports more than 240,000 jobs across Australia.


(Department of Education and Training, 2018)

“International students help grow the economy by the increased spending and demand for services such as education, hospitality and tourism.


However, the most important contribution that international students bring to the community is diversity. In today’s interconnected world, it is more important than ever to have a greater understanding of different cultures, traditions and languages. I think it is a great thing for Australia that international people can come and immerse in its culture and contribute to what it has to offer.”

Uttam Kumar

PhD student, School of Materials Science & Engineering, UNSW

Enriching Australian classrooms

The number of local Australian students undertaking tertiary study is at an all-time high – as is the number of international students studying in Australia. Rather than taking the places of local students, international student fees help to subsidise and expand the capacity of our education institutions. These additional funds also enable providers to improve facilities, services and support for the benefit of all students.


When it comes to the modern Australian classroom – in schools, colleges or universities – international students are part of the DNA. International students can enrich the learning experience for all – both socially and culturally. They bring a global perspective to classrooms and lecture theatres, encouraging teachers to consider new approaches to learning and teaching.


Opportunities for engagement between local and international students can enhance everyone’s ability to operate in a culturally diverse environment, equipping them with the skills to respond to a changing global workforce.
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The number of Australians in tertiary study is at an all-time high. 56% of Australians now hold a post-school qualification – up from 46% in 2006.


(Australian Census, 2016)

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International student fees account for more than 25 per cent of funding to Australian universities, which help to subsidise and expand the capacity of our education institutions.


(Department of Education and Training, 2016)


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In 2019, Australia hosted around 750,000 students from more than 190 countries – which is almost 3% of the total Australian population.


(International Student Data Monthly Summary, Department of Education, Skills and Employment, December 2019)

“International students bring different life experience, they bring a different culture and a different view of the world.”

Rohan Sadler

Senior Manager & Future Customer Experience, Bendigo Bank

Expanding global mindsets

Australia has a rich history of welcoming people from other cultures. Over a quarter (30 per cent) of Australia’s population was born overseas, and a further 20 per cent has a foreign-born parent.


International education builds upon our multicultural history and provides valuable opportunities to bring together different nationalities and cultures. Indeed, many international students come from service-based cultures and are keen to share their experience, volunteer their time and give back to the local community while in Australia.


In 2018, over 52,000 Australian students became international students themselves and travelled overseas as part of their studies. These students return with a deeper cultural understanding, long-lasting connections and a broader global mindset.


It is estimated that Australia has educated more than 2.5 million international students (Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy 2016–2020). These students return to their home countries with a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, Australia. These connections help develop lifelong friendships, business links and mutual understanding across the region.
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    Did you know?

86% of Australians agree that multiculturalism has been good for our country.


(Australian Human Rights Commission, 2016)

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In 2017, almost 50,000 local students travelled overseas as part of their studies.


(Australian Universities International Directors’ Forum 2018)

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Over 80% of international students between 2000–2014 returned to their home countries (or went to another destination).


(Department of Home Affairs 2018)

“I would highly recommend volunteering because there’s two elements to this.


Firstly, I believe when you give happy, you live happy. Secondly, I feel that volunteering is the best way to engage and embrace Australian values.”

Alexis Phang

Mobile Relationship Manager, Bendigo Bank

Connect with an international student today

International students have a tremendous impact on the communities in which they live, study and work. There are many ways you can get to know an international student and help them feel welcome in Australia. Here are a few ideas to get you started:


Participate in (or host) a welcome dinner


The Welcome Dinner Project is a non-profit organisation that connects long-term Australians with new arrivals, including international students, asylum seekers and migrants. You can attend a home dinner, join a community dinner or even host a dinner yourself.
Become an international student mentor


Most universities and other education providers run mentoring programs for both local and international students. They are a great opportunity to share your knowledge and experience to inspire the next generation of international professionals.
Contact the careers office at your local education provider or university.


Become a homestay host


Homestay hosts open their homes to newly arrived international students while they find long- term accommodation. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about other cultures while showcasing Australia to visitors from all over the world.
Contact your local education provider or university about their preferred homestay provider.

Request a copy of this white paper

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The material contained on this website has been developed by the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) with the support of Australian Government’s Enabling Growth and Innovation program. The views and opinions expressed in the materials do not necessarily reflect the views of or have the endorsement of the Australian Government or of any Minister, or indicate the Australian Government’s commitment to a particular course of action.