International student applications to Australian universities have collapsed by 51% as of March 2021, as states and universities try again to entice students to resume in-person study.
According to a parliamentary survey published this year, there seems to be a 66% increase in international student admissions over the last decade. Even though borders were closed nearly two years ago, Australia’s universities have found it difficult to retain international students, who have been the backbone of the country’s university system for the past ten years.
According to recently published statistics available from the Overseas Student Enrollment Marketplace Adventus, applications from international students to Australian universities have dropped by half since the beginning of 2021.
The government figures from November suggest that there are presently 2,59,752 student visa holders in the country, with more than half enrolled in higher education or postgraduate research. The marketplace, which works with over 1,500 institutions worldwide, revealed that applications have increased by 148 per cent in Canada, 150 per cent in the United Kingdom, and 422 per cent in the United States since March as a result of a transition in the attractiveness and accessibility of these countries to international students. However, the numbers suggest that there are currently 1,48,464 student visa holders who are not currently in the country.
As per the Adventus CEO, Ryan Trainor, the statistics suggest that students consider other countries for study who earlier considered studying in Australia. “This may have a long-term impact on the country as we have lost nearly two years of students and the flow-on effect may have longer-term implications,” Trainor said. “This is concerning as international students typically account for 30-40 per cent of a university’s revenue — they need strong pipelines of international student applications to thrive.”
The sector has lost approximately 17,000 jobs since the outbreak began as estimated by Universities Australia. Victoria University think tank Mitchell Institute has developed modelling that suggests the university sector might lose up to $19 billion over the next three years due to international border closures.
Beginning in April, a collection of organizations comprised of institutions in many states that account for the majority of the nation’s international student intake pushed for the development of return student policies, including plans to establish independent quarantine centres. However, these preparations were scrapped when most of the east coast was again sealed down in mid-June due to the spread of the Delta form of Covid-19 in Australia.
The government of Australia will consider welcoming skilled workers and international students and other visa holders by early 2022 or late 2021, confirmed Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
“Of course we want international tourists and students as well. That work is underway. We’ll open those borders when it’s COVIDSafe to do so. Clearly, the first step has already been made,” Frydenberg said.
“In the first instance, it will be for Australians, Australian residents and their families,” PM Morrison said in October, adding “we’ll see how that goes and then we’ll move to the other priorities, which I’ve already set out as being skilled migration, as well as students to Australia.”
From early December 2021, up to 250 overseas students studying with NSW education institutions will be able to return every fortnight. Anne-Marie Lansdown, Deputy Chief Executive of Universities Australia, expressed optimism that a “corner has been turned” with the announcement of pilot plans to return international students to New South Wales, Government of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland.
“The closure of international borders during the Covid-19 pandemic has obviously had an impact on the willingness of international students to enrol at an Australian university,” Lansdown said. “Nonetheless, the fundamental attractiveness of an Australian education has not changed.”