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Why is Australia losing international students?

  • November 25, 2020 08:40 PM AEDT
  • Edita Ivancevic
    Journalist Edita Ivancevic
    212 Posts

    Edita is a young journalist who graduated in 2019 from the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, Croatia, specialising in Television and Public Relations. Since the teenage years, Edita gained knowledge of news reporting and analysing complex curre...

Why is Australia losing international students?


  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has been reluctant in allowing international students in the country. That decision took effect in real life when the country suffered a 40 per cent drop in student visa applications.
  • The Department of Home Affairs reported 72,396 visa submissions in 2020, compared to last year when there were more than 300,000 applications.
  • Most international students said they would consider studying in another country if Australia does not provide transparent information about opening international borders.
  • The biggest tertiary education competitors are the UK, Canada, and the US. All of them have already shown signs of great efforts towards international students, unlike Australia, that might suffer significant consequences due to its decision.
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Australia seems to be losing a battle against competitor countries when it comes to tertiary education. While overseas universities are arranging arrivals and flights for thousands of students from across the world, Australia is left far behind.

Compared to international universities, Australian universities have failed to address the impact of the pandemic on the inflow of the international students. Tens of thousands of international students are left stranded in their own countries – even after they have paid their fees to Australian universities.

The biggest competitors seem to be Canada, the US, and the UK. However, Australia depends significantly on international students – they make the third-largest export business for the country. It is estimated that the international student industry is worth nearly A$40 billion.

ALSO READ: How did travel ban for international students affect property market in Australia?

Universities have slowly started feeling the heat after the Department of Home Affairs received 72,397 student visa applications since the beginning of this year till July, which indicates a 40 per cent drop compared to same period last year.

This year’s applications cover for two and a half months of all visa applications that the DHA got in 2019. As the international borders are still closed, many international students are still uncertain if and when they will be allowed to the country for their studies.

Some professors argue that current circumstances could potentially lead to even worse consequences. International students boost the economy a lot more than by paying student tuitions – they benefit restaurants, retail, real estate, and tourism industry the most. With no concrete plans in sight for the future, the overall economy might lose a significant proportion of the GDP; also, Australia might lose its reputation that it has had for decades.

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Do students still want to come to Australia?

A recent survey has shown that more than half of the participants are considering cancelling their visa and opt for other countries that are more welcoming towards students. More than 90 per cent of them stated they would instead participate in hotel quarantine than not attend university at all but would expect compensation from educational institutions.

Does Australia have a plan for students?

Australian universities might be at a significant loss if the government does not prepare more seats on flights for international students. The government would also not allow internationals wandering freely around the country so that hotel quarantine would be mandatory for all students.

However, hotels have limited capacities, and PM Scott Morrison said they are primarily reserved for stranded Australians. That news was not well received in China; hence the Asian universities are now recognising non-completed Australian degrees as partially finished.

How are rival countries dealing with the pandemic?

On the other hand, rival countries are doing their best to bring back thousands of students that have paid for tuitions. For example, an estimated number of 20 British universities teamed up to transport many Chinese students to the UK. The British government promised to treat overseas students under the same criteria as if they were from the EU nations.

Canada had also started welcoming students earlier in October and is also offering financial aid to those in need. Due to that, many are now considering going to Canada for their tertiary studies in case Australia does not show optimistic signs in the near future.

Are Australian universities suffering?

As previously mentioned, Australia earns a significant proportion of its total income from international students that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. For now, universities have reported hundreds of layoffs due to the lack of budget, while some employees have decided to take voluntary redundancies.

Many students expressed dissatisfaction about the lack of information regarding the start date of live classes and entering the borders safely. Due to this, experts warn that Aussie universities could lose even more money while being forced to fire additional employees.

Tertiary education institutions are not eligible for the JobKeeper subsidy, as per the government’s decision from earlier this year, leaving their staff without full pay checks. However, a multi-billion-dollar the New York University with an Australian division got the green light for JobKeeper, it was revealed on Friday.

According to data provided by the National Tertiary Education Union, 11,000 people lost their jobs in the university sector. That is not all – another 21,000 roles are expected to stop existing by next year if the current situation prolongs.


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