Australian education sector struggles to bring international students back

Australian students

Although Australia’s economy is on track to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s education sector remains a notable exception with insiders struggling to find a solution for the international student drought.

This week, a plan proposed by Treasurer of New South Wales (NSW) state, Dominic Perrottet to bring overseas students back put the stranded sector under the spotlight again, Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.

Perrottet proposed to quarantine arriving international students in the island state of Tasmania, in a bid to get around strict limits on the number of overseas arrivals each Australian jurisdiction can process.

After the plan was rejected, the Treasurer asked for changes to the international arrival rules and to use some of the caps to bring the international students back.

International education was worth A$40.3 billion in 2019, making it the country’s fourth-biggest export.

Last year, the border closure blocking international students from entering Australia cost the sector a loss in export revenue of nearly A$9 billion, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Universities Australia said the varsities shed at least 17,300 jobs in 2020 and lost an estimated A$1.8 billion in revenue compared to 2019.

In December 2020, the country welcomed only 230 international students, a 99.4 per cent drop from roughly 38,460 in the corresponding month of the previous year, the ABS figures showed.

The announcement by the federal government earlier this month to extend the border closure for at least another three months to mid-June, as well as the current arrival caps, further extended the predicament.

With international students still shut outside, the international education sector is estimated to lose a further 5.5 per cent or A$2 billion in 2021, according to Universities Australia.

The Indian students market, which ranked second only to China as the top source country of foreign students studying in Australia, also witnessed a great drop.

The number of new Indian students enrolling to study at Australian universities dropped by more than 80 per cent in the second half of 2020, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

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