One of Australia’s leading universities is looking to scale down the share of Chinese international students enrolled at the institution in a bid to avoid having one country as a main source.

According to documents obtained via a Freedom of Information request from Woroni, the Australian National University (ANU) student newspaper, Chinese students are “dominating” international student numbers at the university, accounting for over 60 percent of international undergraduate enrollments this year.

Based on the documents, ANU’s diversification strategy has been in place since as early as 2015, which has seen the university redirecting its international student recruitment efforts to countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore.

However, the paper noted that the university’s statistics say otherwise: over the past five years, the proportion of Chinese students has instead gone up, rising from 42 percent of ANU’s enrolled international students in 2011 to 59 percent in 2016.

ANU’s International Students Department President Harry Feng told Woroni that he wasn’t aware of a diversification strategy, but said that the university and its students would benefit from increased diversity on campus.

“We don’t think that an overreliance on a single market is particularly good for the student body, so we would like a greater range of source countries,” he added.

During an ANU council meeting earlier this year, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington expressed similar views, mentioning the need to “mitigate potential risk exposure in the event of market downturn”.

With Chinese universities making improvements and gradually climbing their way up in global university rankings, it’s understandable that ANU would be cautious of becoming too reliant on the Asian giant as a source for overseas students.

However, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International and Outreach) Professor Shirley Leitch assured that “there is no sign that the Chinese market is going to fail any time soon”.

She explained that based on current trends, “people are now starting to think that in ten years’ time, at the rate that the Chinese university system is developing its own high-quality universities, there will be less demand [for overseas higher education]”.

Image via Australian National University

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