International student numbers increased by 15% in Australia in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2016, the latest official figures show.

Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, said the rising international student numbers came on top of growth of around 10.5% since the current Government came to power in 2013, adding that the country's first National Strategy for International Education 2025 will support continued growth.

International Students

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'In 2017 Australia hosted a record number of international students as more than 550,000 students from over 190 different nations flocked to our shores. The Government recognises the importance of our international education system,' he pointed out.

'Our international education system is critical in Australia's economic prosperity as we continue to transition from an economy built on the success of the mining and construction boom to an economy based on knowledge, services and innovation,' he added.

The first three months of data captured data for students starting their higher education in the first semester of 2017, as well as students commencing full year courses in vocational education and training and in schools.

Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Alex Hawke confirmed that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBO) had received more than 111,000 student visa applications in the first quarter of 2017, up from around 94,000 for the same period in 2016.

'This is a significant increase compared to the same time in the previous year and symbolises the efforts Australia has undertaken to attract international students,' he said.

The figures also show that all education sectors had experienced growth in international students during the first quarter of 2017. English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students sector (ELICOS) increased by almost 38%, the Higher Education sector by almost 23% and the VET sector by almost 13%.

Birmingham said the new data coincided with today's release of education export income results by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, confirming a record $22.4 billion added to the Australian economy in 2016 from international education, with positive contributions shared across all states and territories.

'International education is our third largest export after iron ore and coal and continues to play a vital role in our national economic and social prosperity,' he added.