Flag of AustraliaAs part of the demands of globalisation, the Australian Government is perfectly aware that society must move towards multilingualism. A clear indicator of this awareness is the educational national policy statement National Statement and Plan for Languages Education in Australian Schools 2005-2008 (150kb pdf), approved by the Education Ministers of all the states in March 2005. This policy is to assist and encourage young Australians to learn a second language. Additionally economic reports, such as Invest Australia’s Global Returns, The National Strategic Framework for Attracting Foreign Direct Investment,1 describe the importance of foreign ownership in Australian firms and companies, as well as the growing interest in merging with overseas business. This is creating a great demand in skilled multilingual professionals in a more competitive world.

“International trade, financial, economic and historical relations are important factors underlying student mobility. For example, the promotion of regional economic integration by organisations and treaties such as the European Union, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) may provide incentives for students to develop their understanding of partner countries’ cultures and languages, and to build bilateral or multilateral networks. Some national governments have made international student mobility an explicit part of their socio-economic development strategies. For example, several governments in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Australia, Japan and New Zealand, have initiated policies to attract foreign students to study in their higher education institutions, often on a revenue generating or at least self financing basis.”

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Education at a Glance, 2003


Student mobility

International student mobility and foreign students in tertiary education (2005, 2012)
International student mobility and foreign students in tertiary education (2005, 2012). The term “international students” or “mobile students” refers to students who have moved from their country of origin with the purpose of studying. The term “foreign students” refers to students who are not citizens of the countries in which they are enrolled, but may be long-term residents or were born in that country. In general, international students are a subset of foreign students. Footnote 2


The factors driving the general increase in student mobility range from the exploding demand for higher education worldwide and the perceived value of studying at prestigious post-secondary institutions abroad, to specific policies that aim to foster student mobility within a geographic region (as is the case in Europe), to government efforts to support students in studying specific fields that are growing rapidly in the country of origin. In addition, some countries and institutions undertake major marketing efforts to attract students from outside their boundaries [such as Australia].3

  • In Australia, 18 % of students enrolled in tertiary education are from another country4
  • Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the UnitedStates together receive more than 50 % of all foreign students worldwide4
  • International students represent 10 % or more of the enrolments in tertiary education in Australia, Austria, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom4
  • The number of international students in Oceania has almost tripled since 2000, though the region hosts less than 10 % of all foreign students4
  • In Australia there are 18 foreign students for each Australian student abroad5
  • Students from Asia form the largest group of international students enrolled in countries reporting data to the OECD or the UNESCO Institute for Statistics: 53 % of the total in all reporting destinations. The proportions of students from Asia among all international and foreign tertiary students are particularly large in Japan (94 %), Korea (93 %), Australia (82 %), the United States (73 %) and New Zealand (70 %)5
  • Based on current patterns of graduation, 38 % of young people, on average across the 26 OECD countries with comparable data for 2012, will graduate for the first time from tertiary-type A programmes during their lifetime. The proportion ranges from less than 25 % in Chile, Hungary, Luxembourg and Mexico, to 50 % or more in Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and Poland6

Global student mobility follows inter- and intra-regional migration patterns to a great extent. The growth in the internationalisation of tertiary enrolment in OECD countries, as well as the high proportion of intra-regional student mobility show the growing importance of regional mobility over global mobility. Student flows in European countries and in Eastern Asia and Oceania tend to reflect the evolution of geopolitical areas, such as closer ties between Asia-Pacific countries and further co-operation among European countries beyond the European Union (UNESCO, 2009).6

Teaching in a multicultural or multilingual setting seems not to be an important issue in most European countries but it is a large concern in Latin American countries and in Italy: 46 % of Brazilian teachers, 24 % of Chilean teachers, 27 % of Italian teachers and 33 % of Mexican teachers cite a need for professional development in this area.7

As example of the Australian government policies to enhance the connections between Australia and Latin America are the Memorandums of Understanding signed over the past 15  years with several countries.


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1. Invest Australia. Global returns: the national strategic framework for attracting foreign direct investmentCanberra : Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, 2002, 12 p.
2. Adapted from Table C4.1 International student mobility and foreign students in tertiary education (2005, 2012) in OECD (2014). Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, p. 354 [Online] Cited 08/11/2014
3. Ibid., p. 342
4. Ibid., p. 343
5. Ibid., p. 350
6. Ibid., p. 76
7. Ibid., p. 519