Australia’s migration regulations barred foreigners from entering the country in order to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The change has been painful for international students, whose study abroad dreams have been wrecked by rising difficulties that appear to be never-ending. Border closures have caused academic ambiguity, individual economic losses, and worsened psychological state amongst international students. But at the other end, another topic has policy analysts scratching their heads and issuing dire forecasts about the state of higher education in Australia.
Researchers have warned that the country would become a “low-skilled guest-worker society” now that restrictions on foreign students’ working hours have been temporarily lifted in order to meet labour shortages in key areas. An immigration policy specialist, Dr Abul Rizvi, commented on the matter, saying that such drastic limitations on immigration imposed in the face of mitigating circumstances had a propensity to “become permanent“.
The proposed program also grants graduate job privileges to international students, broadening post-graduate work chances to individuals who completed their education overseas after being barred from entering the country.
An Australian National University higher education policy expert, Professor Andrew Norton, is sceptical that this is a move in the right direction. “I’ve got real concerns about the huge numbers of long-term temporary migrants,” he was quoted saying.
The Department of Home Affairs’ change to the working hours for the Subclass 500 student visa drew criticism for undermining the Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-30, which aims to promote a more sustainable industry in the post-pandemic environment.
The professor is concerned about the inconsistency in rules affecting student visas, graduate visas, and permanent residency, which could harm the sector in the long run. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, foreign students enrolled in Australian universities have been put through the wringer. The professor is concerned about the inconsistency in rules affecting student visas, graduate visas, and permanent residency, which could harm the sector in the long run.
Since the outbreak of the virus, foreign students enrolled in Australian universities have been put through the wringer. Australia had closed its international borders since March 2020 and that has left several students in grief owing to the agonizing disruption in study plans, spoiling the dream study abroad experience that many had hoped for.
Some students have given up completely and moved on to brighter educational pastures in other nations that are more friendly to overseas students. Although this approach may be defensible in terms of public health, it has clearly failed economically.
When compared to the same time period in 2019, international enrolment in Australia fell by 9 per cent to 35 per cent in various top universities in the first semester of 2021. The lack of international students in Australia has a negative impact on the local economy.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, foreign education contributed more than 40 billion Australian dollars to the economy in 2019.
The absence of international students is terrible news for local company owners who depend on them to keep their operations running. In this perspective, Australia’s temporary adjustments to student visas and the post-study employment visa are an expedient measure to incentivize a sector that is losing ground to Northern Hemisphere countries. While the discussion continues, one issue remains: what do international students think?
Overseas students have faced food and housing shortages, inefficient online learning from abroad, visa delays, anti-immigrant sentiments, and pay exploitation from extended working hours, all on top of an already precarious situation.
Several others simply want to safely return back and continue on-campus learning in order to obtain the complete university experience that they were deprived of during the pandemic.
“What has caused the most anxiety and, at times, anger towards the Australian government is not necessarily about the border closures per se, but about a lack of clear messaging, a lack of timelines, and a lack of positive communication from the federal government about the importance of welcoming students back onshore,” the head of research at The Lyon Group, Angela Lehmann explained.
It is the students who suffer economic losses and missed chances to the disadvantage of their well-being. The remedy isn’t always useful when things go wrong for those who have already exhausted their resources in order to keep their enrollment status.
One thing which is confirmed is that ignoring the opinions of international students in the national discourse over immigration and educational reforms would discourage more students from studying in Australia.
With the rising Omicron cases in Australia, it remains unclear what concrete efforts the country is taking to alleviate the higher education crisis, which is expected to last for years.