International Vocational Education: Is Australia Winning?

According to the recent figures released by the Australian Education International, enrollment of Indian students in the Australian universities has increased by 38% as comapred to last year. As on March 09, there were nearly 75,000 Indian students enrolled in the Australian education institutions. A closer look into the numbers reveal two interesting patterns of enrollment of Indian students in Australia:

1. Majority of the Indian students in Australia are enrolled in vocational education and training sector (VET) and not higher education [47,067 (62%) in VET and 22,387 (30%) in higher education].
2. VET sector in Australia is witnessing a rapid growth in enrollment from Indian students (see Table)

These trends are in contrast to the enrollment patterns in the US universities where nearly 70% of the Indian students are enrolled at the master's and doctoral level programs (IIE OpenDoors). According to the IIE OpenDoors report 2007/08, India ranked #1 in terms of total number of international students enrolled in the US educational institutions (94,563) but ranked #7 in terms of students enrolled at the Associate Degree/vocational (1,741) level.
This suggests that Australia bound Indian students have a different profile and need as compared to the US bound students. Australia's attractiveness for the graduate level education seems to be over-rated and Indian students still place a high premium for the reputation of the US doctoral institutions. However, on the other end it also implies that there is a new segment of aspirational students in India, who are seeking international vocational education at an affordable price with opportunities for immigration. Australia seem to be fulfilling this aspiration for a large number of Indian students which the US community colleges have completely missed out. American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) undertook some initiatives including a delegation to India in 2007, but there is a need for much deeper understanding of these trends and how US community colleges can attract some of the top talent from India.