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Australian business schools hope to bring international students home

Australia’s higher education system has been one of the country’s worst-hit sectors during the pandemic, as incomes fell in half due to the stifling impact of border closures on international student numbers.

Covid-19 and the government’s response to strict border controls (part of the ‘Fortress Australia’ policy) has disrupted the flow of international students. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, earnings from the university’s key resources fell to A$20.2 billion ($13.8 billion) in his year to June. This compares to his A$38.7 billion for the same period in 2019, before the pandemic hit.

Universities and their business schools have devised ways to quickly switch courses online and stay engaged with students who are locked down and have no way to return to their home countries. Despite this, the number of students enrolled from overseas has decreased sharply.

According to government data, 956,773 international students enrolled in Australian universities in 2019, of which more than 750,000 fully paid for on student visas. That number has dropped to about 446,000 this year.

Eliza Littleton, an economist at the Australian Institute’s public policy think tank, said the sector “has become increasingly dependent on international student tuition, temporary employment and low wages for staff, and its dysfunction has been exacerbated by the pandemic.” I’m here.

She notes that Australian universities will record their first decline in revenues in eight years in 2021, leading to job cuts of 35,000 jobs across the higher education sector – almost one in five.

University of Sydney
University of Sydney international student says online classes have ‘lost the true meaning of studying abroad’ © Loren Elliott/Reuters

Roy Greene, professor emeritus at University of Technology Sydney and former president of the business school, said this puts pressure on university staff to increase their educational burden. On the other hand, in many cases, research projects funded from international student tuition have been curtailed, causing many postdoctoral students and early-stage researchers to move abroad. “It led to demoralization in the higher education sector,” he adds.

Geopolitical tensions between Australia and China have also hit universities that rely on a steady flow of international students.

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Cheng, stressed the importance of educational ties between the two countries in a June speech at the University of Technology, Sydney. He noted that he has 131,400 Chinese students in Australia, accounting for his 28% of the country’s international student population.


Number of job cuts in Australian tertiary education caused by pandemic

According to Australian government data, that number is down by up to 20% from the previous year and is falling faster than students from other countries.

However, there are now signs that Chinese students may be returning in droves. Jon Chew, head of Global Insights at consultancy Navitas, said his data for the first six months of the year suggested a “full recovery” in the number of Chinese students studying abroad. says that About 40% of them were returning international students.

But Mr Chu added that the New South Wales State Auditor General had emphasized its reliance on Chinese students. Seven of the state’s 10 colleges and universities now report that China is the primary source of income for international students, creating a concentration risk.

Decrease in Chinese students But it’s not so serious for business schools. The growing number of Indian, Nepali and Indonesian students enrolled in recent years has reduced our dependence on Australia, Australia’s largest trading partner, for revenue.

Moreover, domestic demand unexpectedly surged during the pandemic. Mark Barnabas, who served on the board of the University of Western Australia Business School and served as its chairman for nearly two decades, has proven that business schools are unlikely to benefit from his protocol for the country’s strict lockdown. said he did.

“The domestic market has increased as people isolate themselves at home [and] I chose to study during lockdown,” he says. “Companies looking to retain their workforce also encouraged it and supported their fees. Overall, it was an extraordinary dynamic that benefited Australian business schools.”

Chart showing admissions for international students in Australia

Vice Chancellor of Melbourne Business School, Andrew John, points out that while the executive education business has declined during the lockdown, it has accepted its largest number of part-time students since September 2020. he says.

A major change at Melbourne Business School has been the decline in the ‘learning rate’, with fewer students taking two courses at a time. “We don’t know if this is temporary, perhaps anecdotally at least reflecting the pressure and burnout felt across the Australian workforce, or if it’s a permanent change,” John said. says.

Australia’s aim is to attract more international students back to the country, and it has plans to reduce visa complexity, not only increasing numbers but also tempting more international students to obtain permanent residency. It also aims to

Alumni are a concern for the higher education sector and the wider economy. Not only does Australia lose its best students abroad, but it risks a ‘brain drain’ if it fails to retain international students after they go abroad. At the same time, the unemployment rate is at her nearly 50-year low and the country faces a labor shortage.

The government has responded with proposals to extend the validity of visas and expand the right to stay and work for student visa holders. This is a key attraction for more international students to enroll.

Barnabas, deputy chairman of mining group Fortescue and a board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia, believes the draconian lockdown measures that have frozen many international students could even pay off now that borders have reopened. I’m here.

“Australia’s strict Covid restrictions have kept the death toll low,” he says. “Combined with the strength of the economy and the general perception that it is a safe and enjoyable country, Australia may appear to be an attractive country to study in.”

Despite the “background noise” of geopolitical tensions, Green suggests that Chinese students will continue to play an important role in Australia and continue funding the higher education sector. It’s like,’ he says. “If someone said, ‘Don’t do business with China,’ the economy would go into a spiral. It’s the same with higher education.”

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