Several massive disruptions are taking place all over the world due to the coronavirus outbreak. One of them being a complete feeling of chaos amongst international students. Due to lockdown and travel restrictions, students are unable to start their university courses. The only choice they have is to begin their courses online if their universities permit it.
However, several universities overseas are chartering flights, allowing thousands of Chinese students to resume their studies. This leaves Australia racing to keep up against its top competitors- UK, Canada, and China.
Australia is recovering from a horror week with continuous staff layoffs, as border closures are crippling their budgets. During this period, China’s Ministry of Education plans a change in their policy. They are now deciding to recognize degrees that students choose to complete partially at overseas universities. This brilliant move eliminates the need for these international students to return to Australia.
The Ministry informs Chinese state media that, subsequently, they will give permission to universities to accept international students who are studying abroad to join their domestic universities. This move is being put forward on the premise of ensuring educational equity. It will enable universities to recognize foreign qualifications, which students partially complete in local institutions.
An initiative by UK universities allow about 20 universities to join together and charter flights to fly Chinese students from Britain. After the UK declares that they would treat all Chinese students under the same light as those from the EU for visa purposes, flights moving through Hainan Airlines promise to ferry students from Chongqing to Manchester at the earliest. This allows them to start their semester courses by the end of September.
Another great initiative by Canada’s Sheridan College is their refund system for the unhappy students who have opted for the online courses. This bid allows the university to keep its students on the books during this challenging coronavirus period.
Chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, Phil Honeywood, voices his concerns about a ‘real danger’ of them losing several international students for their semesters next year. The danger signals have already become a reality. Although a smaller number of students from major key markets are switching and going to other countries, the numbers are set to increase further.
How Much is the Decrease in Students Studying in Australia?
According to a recent publication by The Department of Home Affairs, Australia sees a significant decline in international students studying there. Applications coming in from India are decreasing by 46%. Furthermore, applications from Nepal and China see a decrease of 60% and 20%, respectively.
The effects of these are massive. As the Australian universities grapple with the significant declines in its international students, there is a decrease in revenue due to border closes. These ongoing improvements threaten to prolong the pain for the current $40 billion global student sector.
Earlier this year, a decision by the federal government makes things even more difficult for Australian universities. According to a new policy, a tightening of the restrictions on eligibility requirements for universities is causing these universities not to be able to access an $86 billion JobKeeper scheme. This is causing further distress for Australian universities; however, they cannot find an easy escape from this.
In more devastating news, The Australian National University in Canberra announces that 215 jobs have to be cut. Also, there will be 250 voluntary redundancies, which is quite a significant number. Furthermore, The University of NSW also confirms to cut off 256 full-time positions. This results in 3.8% of the university workforce losing their jobs. All these moves are in a bid to save $39 million, at least.
As for other famous universities like RMIT University, they are already accepting 355 voluntary redundancies. However, they predict that about 250 more jobs will be shed by the end of the year.
During the same period, the University of Sydney announces its plans to implement several voluntary redundancies. However, they forecast an approximate $550 million reduction in student revenues for the next four years.
A document circulated in the university states the key assumptions- on whose basis this financial planning is.
It states their assumptions that “there will be no change to the current Chinese government policy on recognition of online study” and “Australia will retain its current competitive position for higher education vis-à-vis other countries.”
An estimate by The National Tertiary Education Union also states that approximately 11,000 jobs are already cut to date. This is primarily in response to the Covid-19 global crisis. However, several major universities in Australia claim that a higher number of about 21,000 positions in universities may be cut by the end of the year.
Dramatic revelations by ABC report that New York University’s Sydney can qualify for JobKeeper payments. Soon after, these significant announcements came out by the top Australian universities.
Amidst this, Anthony Albanese, a labor leader, makes a statement saying that he believes these moves are a “scandal” and “rolled gold hypocrisy.” Moreover, he also states that- “An American university worth billions of dollars qualifies for JobKeeper, but Australian universities who have seen some 11,000 workers sacked were ineligible.”
Read More: How to Apply for an Australian Tourist Visa?
Josh Frydenberg, the treasurer, goes on to make a conciliatory statement on hearing this. He announces that the situation they are facing due to the unforeseen coronavirus pandemic is incomparable. Foreign and domestic universities around the globe are in a dire situation.
Mr Frydenberg makes a statement saying, “You’re talking about an apple and an orange.” “Australian universities have been receiving support in terms of their domestic places. We have been there to provide that $18 billion of support. That does not support that’s available to foreign universities that may have a domestic campus. It’s a different situation.”
As we can see from the proceedings worldwide, universities are continually changing their policies to make accommodation for international students. Most universities cannot afford to lose their student base; however, stringent guidelines make it tough to make any impulsive decisions.