Visa Crunch

Border Closure Impact: Australia Further Decrease In Students For Australia In 2021

Full-year international student data for 2021 released this week by Australia’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) shows the continued impact of Covid-19 border closures, with a 17 per cent decrease in total students and a 28.3 per cent decline in new course commencements.

In its full-year update for 2021, DESE said that there were 570,626 international students on a student visa in 2021, a 16.9 per cent decrease compared with the previous year.

The data for 2021 includes students who may be located outside of Australia. In a snapshot released at the end of last year, DESE estimated that 28 per cent of student visa holders enrolled on December 1st 2021 were outside of Australia and a further seven per cent were location unknown.

In the latest 2021 full-year data, there were 716,921 international enrolments during the year, a decline of 18.6 per cent compared with 2020. Enrolments are generally higher than total student numbers as a student may enrol on more than one course of study in a calendar year.

The biggest impact of border closures was apparent in the number of course commencements by student visa holders, which decreased by 28.3 per cent to 284,224 in 2021.

The ELICOS language sector has been one of the most affected by Australia’s border closures. A total of 28,204 commencements in 2021 was a decrease of 57.7 per cent compared with the previous year, and a decline of 75.9 per cent with the industry peak of 117,308 commencements in 2019, the last full year prior to the pandemic.

Several of the major source countries for the ELICOS sector have declined significantly in terms of student visa commencements during the pandemic.

ELICOS commencements for Brazil, for example, decreased by 86 per cent between 2019 and 2021, and there were large drops in the same period for Japan (-77.9), Colombia (-75.6) and Korea (-70.9).

The non-award sector, which includes pathway/foundation and exchange students, has also suffered a large drop in commencements: 7,123 in 2021 was an 80 per cent fall compared with 2019. There were 3,578 student visa course commencements in the school’s sector in 2021, down by 55 per cent compared with the previous year and 69.9 per cent compared with 2019.

However, the higher education and vocational sectors have been less damaged by the pandemic.

There were 106,113 commencements in higher education in 2021, down by 22.1 on the previous year and 40 per cent on 2019 figures. The VET vocational sector, meanwhile, had 139,206 commencements in 2021, down by 15.7 per cent compared with the previous year and 17.3 per cent in 2019.

All of the top five source markets for international students decreased in 2021, the DESE data showed, with the largest source country China dropping by 11 per cent to 170,741 students.

India and Nepal, second and third-placed respectively, both dropped by 13 per cent, while Vietnam in fourth registered a decrease of 14 per cent and fifth-placed Malaysia declined by 23 per cent.

Several of the major source countries for the ELICOS sector have declined significantly in terms of student visa commencements during the pandemic.

Australia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated student visa holders and working holidaymakers on December 15th, and to all vaccinated travellers including tourists earlier this week, and the sector will be hoping to see a significant recovery in commencements and enrolments in 2022.

Since reopening, Australia has announced a temporary relaxation of work limits for international students and visa fee rebates for students and working holidaymakers arriving in the coming weeks as measures to incentivise travel to the country.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, said in a statement that between the border reopening in December and mid-February around 80,000 international students had entered the country, including 13,500 in the prior week alone.

Click here to access the DESE full-year data for 2021.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only.

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