Australia Beckons Growing Numbers of Pakistani Students

While the overall foreign student population in Australia has declined this year, the number of Pakistanis studying in Australia is continuing double-digit growth, according to recent Australian government data on international education. Pakistan has now become the top growth market for Australia's struggling international education industry, even though revenue from its neighbor India fell almost $1 billion in a single year, according to The Australian newspaper. New Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal that Australia's fourth-biggest export industry is turning to new markets to counter a $2.2bn loss of revenue last year.

Australia's earnings from the top 12 foreign markets all fell last year, topped by India, which slumped by 37 per cent, but Pakistan bucked the trend, with revenue rising 15 per cent to $253 million.

Australian international education revenue from Pakistan has been rising, more than tripling over the past five years. Earnings from the boom-bust Indian market are down 50% in two years, collapsing from a 2009 peak of $3.1bn.

Although the growth in the total number Pakistanis studying abroad has slowed since the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001 in the United States, the world's sixth most populous nation continues to be among the leading sources of foreign students in America, Europe, Australia and new emerging higher education destinations in Asia.

Source: Economist Magazine

As the number of Pakistani students in the United States has declined from a peak of 8,644 students (ranked 13th) in 2001-02 to 5,222 in 2009-10 (ranked 23rd), English-speaking OECD nations of the United Kingdom and Australia have become the biggest beneficiaries getting increasing market share of the Pakistan education market. Both nations have benefited in spite of the fact that the UK and Australian visa rejection rates for Pakistanis are higher than for students from other nations.

 With rising urban middle class, there is substantial and growing demand in Pakistan from students, parents and employers for private quality higher education, including vocational training,  along with a willingness and capacity to pay relatively high tuition and fees, according to the findings of Austrade, an Australian govt agency promoting trade. Private institutions are seeking affiliations with universities abroad to ensure they offer information and training that is of international standards.

49,000 Pakistani Students Abroad in 2011 Source: OECD 

Trans-national education (TNE) is a growing market in Pakistan and recent data shows evidence of over 40 such programs running successfully in affiliation with British universities at undergraduate and graduate level, according to The British Council. Overall, the UK takes about 65 per cent of the TNE market in Pakistan.

A common concern about Pakistani students is that they might not return to serve their country. I think this is a genuine concern but it is often overblown. Pakistanis with advanced training are helping their country of origin in many ways. Those who are living and working overseas send significant amounts of money home to help Pakistan's economy. Others contribute their know-how by returning home as doctors, engineers, professors and other professionals and technocrats on a permanent basis or by frequent working visits.

Examples of foreign-educated Pakistanis who are directly contributing to the nation  include a Fulbright computer science scholar who has returned home to help fight terror, a plastic surgeon helping victims of acid attacks, a heart surgeon setting up a hospital in a remote Pakistani village, successful business executives, scientists, university professors and deans, current central bank governor, current finance minister and thousands of others.

It is extremely important for Pakistan's public policy makers and the nation's private sector to fully appreciate the expected demographic dividend as a great opportunity to turn the nation's fortunes for the better. The best way for them to demonstrate it is to push a pro-youth agenda of education, skills developmenthealth and fitness to take full advantage of this tremendous opportunity. Failure to do so  would be a missed opportunity that could be extremely costly for Pakistan and the rest of the world.


 Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Expected Demographic Dividend

Pakistani Graduation Rate Higher Than India's

India and Pakistan Contrasted in 2011

Educational Attainment Dataset By Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee

Quality of Higher Education in India and Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan's Story After 64 Years of Independence

Pakistan Ahead of India on Key Human Development Indices

Scholarships at Foreign Universities

Institute of International Education--Open Doors

UK's Higher Education Statistics Agency Report

Austrade on Education in Pakistan

Views: 2079

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 19, 2012 at 8:55am

FDI in Pakistan rose to $5.4 billion in 2007-2008. In addition to high visa denial rates for Pakistanis, one of the impacts of negative perception survey ranking Pakistan as the second worst is that it has badly affected FDI as well.

Here's a BR story on FDI plummeting in Pakistan: According to the latest data released by the State Bank of Pakistan on 15th May, foreign private investment in the country dropped to only dollar 595 million in July-April, 2012 as compared to dollar 1.622 billion in the corresponding period last year, showing a huge fall of over 63 percent.

Out of this, foreign direct investment (FDI) fell to dollar 667 million as against dollar 1292.8 million in the comparable period of 2011-12, while portfolio investment showed an outflow of dollar 71 million in sharp contrast to an inflow of dollar 329 million in the corresponding period last year.

Sector-wise, the most discouraging news was in the telecommunication sector which used to be the favourite area of investment of foreigners but witnessed a profoundly high net outflow of dollar 327 million of investment during the first ten months of the current fiscal as against an inflow of dollar 73 million in July-April, 2011.

The power sector also recorded a net outflow of dollar 25 million compared to a net inflow of dollar 129 million in the same period of last year.

FDI in financial business declined to only dollar 54 million compared to dollar 223 million in the corresponding period of 2010-11.

Transport and trade sectors also witnessed massive declines of 83 percent and 55 percent, respectively, in FDI during the year.

However, investment in the oil and gas exploration sector at dollar 466 million witnessed an increase of 12 percent during July-April, 2012.

Country-wise, FDI from the US was the highest at dollar 196 million followed by the UK at dollar 171 million, Italy at dollar 162 million and China at dollar 113 million.

A steep fall in FDI during the first 10 months of 2011-12 is definitely disturbing news for the country, especially at a time when the economy is in dire need of liquidity to revive its growth prospects to create job opportunities and reduce poverty.

Also, foreign investment is crucial for technological upgradation, innovative improvements and overall modernisation of the industrial base to allow it to be competitive at the international level and enhance exports to narrow the widening trade gap.

Of course, the compulsion to attract FDI would have been less severe if the country was able to generate the required level of domestic resources to finance the needed investment, but obviously this is not the case as indicated by a huge gap in these two variables.

The most worrying aspect of the situation is that foreign investors have, over the years, changed their perception about the country as a favourable destination of investment and shifted their attention to other countries.

This is indicated by a steady decline in FDI in the country from dollar 5.4 billion in FY08 to dollar 3.7 billion in FY09, dollar 2.2 billion in FY10 and dollar 1.7 billion in FY11.

If the present trend continues which we have no reason to contest, the inflow of FDI during 2011-12 could be less than dollar one billion or highly inadequate to make any meaningful contribution to the country's economic prospects.

The reasons for a rapid decline in FDI in the recent years are not difficult to understand.

Although, there are ample opportunities for investment in various sectors of the economy and Pakistan has one of the most conducive policy framework to attract FDI, the inhibiting factors are so dominant and pervasive that foreign investors seem to avoid the country without giving much thought to the positive gestures of the government.......

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 21, 2012 at 10:46am

In an Op Ed piece titled "Knowledge Economy" published in The News, Pak HEC chair Javaid Laghari argues for greater investment in education by the govt.

While the author's intent to goad Pakistani govt into higher funding of education is laudable, his use of stats to make his case makes little sense. He talks about 504 universities and 80 million Internet users in India which represent a lower percentage penetration for India's 1.2 billion people when compared with 143 universities and 20 million Internet users in Pakistan. I think we should expect more persuasive data from this gentleman.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 22, 2012 at 8:43am

Here's an IANS report on Indian students seeking to go to Australia after UK tightened visas: British universities have experienced a fall of more than 30 percent in Indian enrolments while the percentage of the number of enrolments and visa grants for Australia is reported to be in three figures.

The number of Indian student visa applications for Australia has gone up by a whopping 120 percent in the last nine months while the number of visa grants has also improved by nearly 80 percent in the same period.

Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK - the representative organisation for Britain's universities - has reportedly written to British Prime Minister David Cameron, warning that the immigration changes could cost the country as much as five billion pounds ($8 billion) in tuition fees alone.

The recent immigration crackdown is reported to have led to Indian students shunning British universities.

Besides Australia, the Canadian and European universities and vocational training institutes are also benefitting from international students looking for overseas options other than Britain.

In a similar scenario a few years back, Indian students had shunned Australian education providers after the country tightened immigration rules.

The massive decline in Australia's number two source for international students, India, led to the Australian government ordering a review of the enrolment and student visa process.

Among other recommendations, a former New South Wales minister, Michael Knight, had pressed for a post-study work visa for international students in his "Strategic Review of the Student Visa Programme 2011" report.

British authorities, on the other hand, have abolished Post Study Work Scheme for international students. Many critics of the immigration curbs consider this as the single-most damaging of a "multitude of recent policy changes".

Indian students seem to be have reacted negatively to the denial of work rights in Britain as the number of applications for British student visas from India and other South Asian countries is on a sharp decline.

To make it worse for international students interested in working while studying in Britain, the Cameron government has also removed work rights for most private college students. Work rights for other students were also reduced to just 10 hours a week.

Australia and other countries under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) wooing international students are much more liberal as far as work rights for international students are concerned.

The ongoing economic gloom affecting Britain and other European countries is also forcing some Indian students to study in safer havens like Australia and New Zealand where unemployment rates are much lower.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 8, 2017 at 11:32am

U.S. universities and colleges are hosting 6,141 students from Pakistan, writes David Hale.

Over one million international students are now enrolled at American higher education institutions, maintaining the US’s long-standing position as the world’s top host nation for international students. The 2015-2016 academic year – the latest year for which data is available – showed a 14.7 percent increase in Pakistani students studying in the US. We are proud that this is the highest level in five years, with our universities and colleges hosting 6,141 students. This includes the increase in students studying at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as those enrolled in the Optional Practical Training. This is a testament to the unmatched quality of higher education in the US in the eyes of international students and their families.

International students from diverse backgrounds strengthen ties between the US and various countries around the world, developing the relationships between people and communities that are necessary to solve global challenges. We highly value inclusion and actively support students from diverse racial, ethnic, religious, and geographic backgrounds on campuses across the US. American students and communities benefit from the unique and diverse perspective that international students bring to expand their own worldviews, which helps prepare all of us for a shared, successful future in an interconnected world.

US colleges and universities take pride in providing safe, hospitable environments for all of their students. I want to stress how welcome you are in the US. Many universities have come together to send a specific and direct message to students around the world through the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign. I join them in welcoming you to the US, where our colleges and universities offer valuable educational opportunities to help you meet your life and career goals.

The consular officials at Embassy Islamabad, the Consulate General Karachi, the Consulate General Lahore and at the US embassies and consulates around the world continue to work diligently to process student visa requests. Information about the visa process is available at or The EducationUSA advisers are ready to answer questions about studying in the US, and you can find an adviser at

Those of you who have received offers of admission have an opportunity to accept this life-changing opportunity and join your peers in experiencing the unique value of an American higher education.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 28, 2022 at 7:48am

According to the 2021 census data, while Pakistan's population in Australia has tripled, it has dropped from fifth to eighth place in skilled migration. But visas for international students have increased.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as of the end of June 2019, 91,480 people of Pakistani descent were living in Australia, more than three times the number as of June 30, 2009 (27,250). In terms of numbers, Pakistanis make up the 19th largest immigrant community in Australia, accounting for 1.2% of Australia's overseas population and 0.4% of the total population.

The average age of Australian immigrants of Pakistani descent is 31.4 years, which is 6.0 years less than the general population. Males constitute 60.5% of the population and females 39.5%.

Australia's permanent migration program includes economic and family migration and is the main route to permanent residence. This includes Skill Stream, Family Stream and Special Eligibility Visas. The only other way to get permanent residence is on humanitarian grounds.

In terms of population, Pakistan was ranked 23rd in the 2016 census and is now ranked 19th after a threefold increase in population. But almost all categories in the skilled stream have seen a decline in rankings.

In the Employee Sponsored Category, it is now ranked 16th after a three-point decline, but temporary skilled visas have not seen a change in ranking.
The influx of international students has increased to 7,653 from 5,682 in 2016, after which Pakistan's ranking in this category has improved from 15 to 11.
Top five skills getting permanent visas in 2016 were Accountants 240, Software and Applications Programmers 234, Computer Network Professionals 159, Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers 158 and Electronics Engineers 113 but in 2019-20 the highest number of visas issued to Pakistanis were Accountants 336, Software and Applications Programmers 82, Other Engineering Professionals 51, Electrical Engineers 48 and Civil Engineering Professionals 40.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 7, 2023 at 9:14pm

UNESCO stats on Pakistani students abroad

United Arab Emirates 24,863
Australia 11,297
United Kingdom 7,802
United States 7,511
Kyrgyzstan 6,003
Germany 5,837
Malaysia 4,243
Canada 2,607
Türkiye 2,386
Saudi Arabia 1,635
Korea, Rep. 1,465
Sweden 1,056
Qatar 1,039
Italy 936
Hungary 878
Finland 618
France 502
Norway 435
Bahrain 411
Iran, Islamic Rep. 377
Ukraine 335
Japan 330
Cyprus 318
Oman 293
New Zealand 274
China, Hong Kong 272
Ireland 263
Poland 253
Latvia 234
Spain 192
Estonia 155
Belgium 145
South Africa 138
Thailand 135
Czechia 131
Denmark 130
Austria 127
Georgia 122
Russian Federation 115
Azerbaijan 90
Lithuania 84
Egypt 77
Portugal 71
Switzerland 69
Malta 63
Uzbekistan 56
Romania 51
Kazakhstan 47
Jordan 42
Brazil 39
Bulgaria 34
India 25
Slovenia 25
Belarus 21
Luxembourg 21
Brunei Darussalam 19
Ghana 17
Iceland 17
Botswana 11
Morocco 10
Slovakia 10
Bosnia/Herzegovina 9
Greece 9
Tanzania 8
Viet Nam 5

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 26, 2023 at 6:45pm

15,000 Pakistani Students are Currently Studying in Australia

The envoy shared the willingness to boost the ties further in areas of trade and investment. He apprised the minister that 100,000 strong Pakistan diaspora and 15,000 Pakistani students in Australia are playing an important role in bringing the two countries closer.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 30, 2023 at 10:02pm

Indians and Pakistanis in Australia as per 2016 Census


People 61,915

Male 37,720

Female 24,195

Australian citizen 42.3%

Not an Australian citizen 56.0%


People 455,388
Male 245,416
Female 209,972
Australian citizen 48.1%
Not an Australian citizen 50.8%

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 3, 2023 at 7:06pm

HEC Pakistan announces DAAD scholarships for studies in Germany

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has announced the German assistance organization Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) scholarships for Pakistani students who want to study in Germany.

According to HEC, the organisation has announced scholarships for students to pursue a Master’s degree in their Development-Related Postgraduate Courses (EPOS).

“Under the Development-Related Postgraduate Courses (EPOS) programme, foreign graduates from development and newly industrialised countries from all disciplines and with at least two years professional experience have the opportunity to take a postgraduate or Master’s degree at a state or state-recognised German university,” the HEC statement read on Twitter.

Pakistani graduates with at least two years of professional experience can apply for the programme and must also possess a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject normally in a four-year-long course.

“Candidates can prove their motivation is development-related and be expected to take on social responsibility and initiate and support processes of change in their personal and professional environment after their training/scholarship,” DAAD mentioned on their website.

Students can find more details on the scholarship and programme on DAAD’s website.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 25, 2023 at 7:04pm

There were 8,772 international students from Pakistan at U.S. higher education institutions in 2021/22. A 17.4% change from the previous year.


There has been a 17 percent year-on-year increase (to 8,772) in the number of Pakistani students in the United States during 2021-22, says an official US report.

The report, released in Washington this week, notes that the United States remains the top destination for international students and the number of students from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Pakistan is on the rise!

In South Asia, Bangladesh topped the list with a 23 per cent year-over-year increase, followed by India with a 19pc increase.

Pakistan also has the largest US-funded Fulbright programme in the world, which sends 150 Pakistanis each year to US universities — 100 to earn their master’s degrees and 50 to earn PhDs.

The United States also sponsors 800 Pakistanis each year to travel on exchange programs — from high school students who spend a year at a US high school to professionals who connect with their American counterparts. As a result, Pakistan is home to the largest network of alumni of US government-funded exchange programmes in the world.

The “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange,” published this week, identified China and India as the largest sources of international students to the United States. During the current academic year, China sent 290,086 students, which is 30.6pc of the total number of international students in the US. Yet, it is a decline of 8.6pc, compared to the previous academic year. India, which sent 199,183 students this year — 21 percent of the total — registered a 19pc year-over-year increase. Toge­ther, China and India represent the majority (almost 52pc) of all international students in the United States.

This year’s report shows a 91pc decline in the total number of US students who studied abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year. This is apparently because since the Covid-19 pandemic, 62pc of US colleges offer virtual internships.

While the pandemic also caused a 45.6pc decline in new international students in 2020, the latest data, covering the 2021-2022 academic year, indicates that the total number of international students in the US — 948,519 — has started to recover.

This can be seen in a 3.8pc increase over the 914,095 international students in the US in 2020. Still, the number is well below the nearly 1.1 million international students reported in 2018.

Much of the recent growth is driven by an increase in the number of new international students — 261,961 – which is up 80pc over the 145,528 from 2020 but still 2.14pc below the 267,712 from 2019. Over the past decade, US colleges enrolled more students from China than from any other country. The onset of the global pandemic effectively halted travel between China and the US and political tensions further exacerbated the situation. Now, many Chinese parents feel their children are safe in the US.

The increase in Indian students is also attributed to the Biden administration’s policy of prioritising the student-visa processing in India. This includes adding more staff at US missions in India and streamlining the process, Chinese visa approvals are trending lower than in past years.


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