The number of international students in Victoria has doubled since last year, but Indian students have surpassed Chinese students as the state’s leading country of origin.
As per figures from the Department of Home Affairs, the overall number of overseas students in Victoria is currently 96,300, up from 68,400 in 2021 and 151,500 in 2020. According to the webpage, China was the main country of origin for international students in Victoria in 2020 (25.1 per cent), followed by India (24.2 per cent), Nepal (5.8 per cent), and Malaysia (5.1 per cent).
According to recent statistics, 24.7 per cent of the state’s 96,300 international students are from India, followed by Chinese (18.9 per cent), Nepalis (6.5 per cent), and Vietnamese (6.2 per cent). Since the outbreak, international students have suffered a number of hurdles in their attempts to return to Australia.
Aside from a nearly two-year border blockade that kept most visitors out, surveys indicate that students’ evaluations of the country’s educational quality have declined, encouraging them to seek further education elsewhere. Chinese students, who are increasingly turning away from Australia, are paving the way.
Gary Li, President of the Education Consultants Association of Australia, believes this is due to the country’s late reopening to the rest of the globe, which has caused students to choose more easily accessible places such as the United Kingdom.
“Some return flights cost over A$10,000 at the moment,” Li said. “I think you will only see the number of students grow once China opens its border and flights return to normal.”
Li noted that students may increasingly prefer to remain in China. “The Chinese government changed its regulations to recognise online study degrees,” he told The Age. “As long as that remains, there will be a temptation to stay home.”
One key aspect mentioned by Li is the escalating tensions between Australia and China, which may be contributing to the exodus of students from the country. From a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics in Beijing to filing trade grievances with the World Trade Organization, the two countries have been at odds for the better part of a year, with no end in sight.
The increase of anti-Asian sentiments in the aftermath of the pandemic may also be discouraging Chinese students from pursuing their education abroad. This, paired with the benefits of remaining in China, such as lower tuition rates and greater chances, may present an attractive lure to students on the fence about studying abroad.
More than that, China is emerging as a major player in the field of higher education. It is home to some of the world’s best universities, two of which are ranked among the top 20 in the world by Times Higher Education.
Considering its strict zero-COVID policy, which discourages overseas students, there is little doubt that obtaining an education in China could be appealing to locals. Similarly, Indian students are flocking to Australia to study. With Australia’s border opening, studies indicated that some students returned to Australia in greater numbers than others, including students from India and Nepal, who were the first to arrive.
Australia is a popular study destination for a variety of reasons, together with its multicultural environment, world-class educational facilities, and post-study employment prospects.
Despite the fact that a growing number of Indian students are returning to Australia, students have previously expressed a growing disinterest in Australian education for reasons such as underpayment in the labour market, Australia’s educational quality, and policies that affect Indian nationals arrivals.
The Australian government is clearly striving to correct this. Moreover, the country announced a collaborative task force to form a reciprocal qualifications recognition mechanism, making it easier for Indian students to study in the country. There are also Maitri programmes to assist Indian students at top Canberra universities.
Nonetheless, universities and student housing providers in Victoria are reporting a higher number of international students than projected. La Trobe University told The Age that over 1,000 new students had started this semester, which is more than double the number from the previous year. Meanwhile, international student enrollment at Melbourne University increased, climbing to 23,000 from 21,000 in 2021.
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