Thu. May 19th, 2022

The covid-ravaged university sector has welcomed the news that international students may return to Australia as early as December, when New South Wales and Victoria approve pilot programs to bring them back.

However, some students stuck abroad say they are concerned about the cost of returning and are concerned that degrees such as medicine and engineering will be given priority over others.

The reaction comes as demand data from IDP Connect, which houses the world’s largest course database, shows that Australia has fallen in the ranks of favorite destinations and lost to Canada, the UK and the US.

Australia’s strict border measures had a huge impact on the sector, with international enrollments declining by 210,000 this year, while 130,000 international students have studied online.

Income from international students was the backbone of the industry, with $ 40 billion. Poured into the coffers in 2019. In August, a report from the Mitchell Institute revealed that universities suffered a decline of 6% or 2.2 billion. Dollar in 2020.

This week, NSW and Victorian governments announced pilot programs to bring students back to the country. In NSW, 250 students are allowed to return every fortnight, and in Victoria the number will first be set at 120 per week.

This development is reinforced by this week’s approval from Therapeutic Goods Administration of both Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (the Indian-made AstraZeneca) vaccines for inbound international travelers.

Quarantine will be organized differently in each state. Although it is free for students in NSW, the universities of Victoria decide who is responsible for the $ 5,000 bill.

Some international students are worried that they may have to shell out exorbitant sums to return on top of high tuition fees and the cost of living.

Stella Quang, 20, student at Deakin
Stella Quang, 20, an international student at Deakin University

President of the Deakin Vietnamese International Students & Extension Society, Stella Quang, said Vietnamese students had welcomed the news but were concerned about the cost.

“If there is mandatory quarantine, how much will it cost? And will [the requirements] be different for people who have had Covid in the past and those who have had a vaccine? ”

She said students were also concerned about which degrees would have priority access.

“We do online courses and pay full fees,” Quang said. “I study media and communication, all my courses can be offered online. “I’m not on a priority list to go back, but I’ve paid a lot to be there, use the infrastructure and experience face to face on campus.”

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Every other state and territory develops its own pilot, and Universities Australia’s CEO, Catriona Jackson, said it would follow closely.

She said the federal government’s additional funding of $ 1 billion. For research, the 2020 budget had helped curb job losses, but it was not enough to keep the sector afloat.

“$ 1.8 billion lost last year, $ 2 billion lost this year,” she said. “These are not hits you can absorb without injury.”

The President of the National Tertiary Education Union, dr. Alison Barnes, welcomed the return of international students, but expressed concern over the sector’s dependence on them.

“The reliance on international tuition fees, to close the gaps in teaching and research funding, fueled the widespread Covid crisis in universities and saw 35,000 employees lose their jobs,” Barnes said. “We can not just return to that model.”

Not all unions are struggling

At Australia’s group of eight universities – the country’s leading research institutions – Chinese students still register a significant number.

According to federal data, Chinese enrollments increased by 6.4% compared to July last year.

Go8’s CEO, Vicki Thomson, said the group was concerned about losing more students to overseas competition.

“International student enrollments at group of eight universities, particularly in the field of research education, remain strong,” she said. “There is a real risk that long-term border closures will further affect enrollments in 2022/23, as competitor markets in the US, UK and Canada offer face-to-face training and incentives.”

Research from IDP Connect has revealed that Australia’s share of the global market for international students has fallen from 16.8% to 11.6% in two years.

“Two years ago, Australia took 20% of the share, it was above the US, it was on a par with the UK and behind Canada,” said IDP’s client director, Andrew Wharton. “It has dropped to 9% demand.

“Canada is clearly the first choice for 39% of students, while Australia is at 16%.”

He said Australia could reverse the trend by communicating a clear plan to international students and encouraging them to study in areas experiencing skills shortages.

“It all depends on the border opening. But if Australia could communicate a roadmap for international students and communicate a larger scale of returns, it could be an option. ”

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