Visa Crunch

Australian Higher Education is losing its glamour amongst South Asian students.

While Indian students contributed a whopping AU$6.6 billion to the Australian economy in 2019-20, the same trend has not continued into 2020. Australian higher education institutes have seen a 35% decline in new international student enrolment in the months between July and November of 2020, according to data from the Department of Education. What was also astounding is the there was a steep 805 fall in Indian student enrolment, to a meagre 2,500.

Ravi Lochan Singh, President of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India, said,” “There’s a general feeling of a lack of interest on the part of the government. The government doesn’t seem to be indicating anything positive for the students who are in the pipeline so they would obviously prefer a destination which is open like the UK or Canada or even the US.”

He further added, “But on the other hand the government is continuing to issue student visas. I mean, come on, if you don’t have a real intent to bring them back until the end of the year then tell students. Just tell them to study online and apply for a visa when the borders open. The moment you’ve given a visa there’s an expectation that they’ll be able to travel and that’s just not happening.”

Singh also said that the higher education institutions were also to be blamed for this downturn. Their reluctancy to decrease tuition fee, while providing online classes has led to international students preferring to defer their plans or choose a new country altogether. He elaborated, “On top of that they really didn’t want to pay $30,000-35,000 a year to study on their own mobile phones at home. Now institutions have started offering these discounts because they don’t have any other options.”

Ravi is optimistic, however, and says that “It is absolutely essential that Australia lives up to its promise to the stranded international students who need to undertake their studies and have paid and received their visas … once that happens, prospective students will still keep Australia amongst their options.”

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