International students in VET think the world of Australia

International student enrolments in Australian VET are growing. But what do they really think about the experience and skills-based learning they receive when they get here?

International student enrolments have been an important source of revenue for Australian education providers over the last decade. While higher education has been the biggest drawcard for these students to come abroad, what is often overlooked is the growth of students coming for a VET education.

Data from the Department of Education shows that in 2019, 30 percent of all international student enrolments were in the VET market (a total of over 280,000 students). The numbers have been growing. In 2016, there were 184,725 enrolments and numbers grew 17% year-on-year in 2019.

Australia presents a lot of attraction factors. There is, of course, the sandy beaches, sunny weather, and relative economic advantage. However, our VET sector is also internationally recognised. With a strong regulatory framework and quality providers, we are an international powerhouse of skills.

There is strong satisfaction with Australian VET

International students enrolling in Australia end up being overwhelmingly satisfied with their experience. In fact, 89 percent of international students in VET declared they were happy with their education provider in 2018, and 87 percent were satisfied with the student experience.

The 2018 International Student Survey conducted by the Department of Education and Training found 86 percent of international students were satisfied with their learning experience specifically and 88 percent with the support provided. The arrival and living experience we provide continues to stand out; students gave these a 92 percent and 90 percent approval rating respectively.

Compared with the Global International Student Barometer (which measures the experience of students in 17 countries including the USA, UK, Canada, and New Zealand) Australian VET is doing very well. With comparable overall results on measures like learning and support and a living experience that sets us apart, we continue to deliver the experience students are after.

Employability and job outcomes are also positive

Australian VET also isn’t doing too badly at all when it comes to the outcomes it delivers its graduates. It wouldn’t be a surprise to providers that most students study in the VET sector for employment-related reasons. They either want to start their own business (17.8 percent) or get a job (17.7 percent). Many also want to gain new skills for their current job (13.4 percent), or even just want personal development by improving their general education skills (18.5 percent).

According to the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER), which gathered these results in its International VET Graduate Outcomes 2018 Survey, 56.2 percent of graduates improved their employment status after completing their training. Forty-seven percent of those not employed before training were able to secure employment, while 21 percent who were employed before training were employed at a higher skill level after completion.

These results came despite the significant barriers reported by those that were looking for work after their training. They include the lack of a permanent residency or work visa (47.6 percent) and insufficient work experience (34.3 percent). Language barriers were also a problem for some (19.7 percent), while some could have benefitted from more support from the VET system into the employment market, with 19.7 percent saying they did not know where to look for jobs.


The international education sector as a whole is worth $37.6 billion to the Australian economy in 2019. It was Australia’s fourth-largest export, supporting a total of 250,000 jobs. Given the size of the market, there are strong opportunities for vocational learning providers in this age of global skills, particularly as they diversify international student sources.

VETtrak has witnessed more RTOs look to CRICOS as an opportunity for growth. It’s an opportunity we agree can provide a new and growing source of revenue when managed well. While the nuances of the market are somewhat different, with CRICOS reporting requirements, these differences are not insurmountable.

The good news is international students already think the world of Australian VET. If we continue to provide the student experience they have come to expect and improve on that to compete with other global markets, there’s no reason why students won’t continue to choose Australia.

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