Australian universities might not recover their pre-pandemic international student recruitment market share, a leading scholar said, after decreasing the prospect of significant numbers of international students entering the nation this year.
Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews stated last month that “Tens of thousands of international students returning here this year will be incredibly challenging, if not impossible,” adding that the state did not have the facilities to accommodate large numbers of quarantined students. New South Wales government then shelved its plans to return 1,000 international students to Sydney each week, following new outbreaks of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Brendan Murphy also warned that the country’s international borders were unlikely to reopen until at least 2022 fully.
In 2018, Simon Marginson, University of Oxford professor of higher education, said Australia was poised to overtake Britain in 2019 as the second most popular global destination for international students. Nevertheless, he said it was now “impossible to see that position being restored,” speaking to Times Higher Education.
“If the pandemic will be over by the end of 2021, Australia’s international registrations will recover significantly in 2022, but it will take five years or more to recover its 2019 registration, and it will take much more longer to recover market share. Australia may then also not recover market share in the longer term,” he said.
“My sense is that Australia’s international education is in deep, deep trouble. That means that higher education is in deep trouble, and scientific research is in equally deep trouble, as international student fees are heavily financed.
Marginson, a former professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne, stated, “There is now a major fork in the way” between the British and Australian higher education systems, because, during the pandemic, Australia closed its borders. At the same time, Britain did not, as well as Australia’s greater reliance on international student fees and weaker public science funding.
My political nose assures me that the government of Australia is not very concerned about the declining position of university science and still less about Australian universities’ overall work. He knows that the decline in international education means that the economy will be hit, but politics comes before economics with this government,’ Marginson said.
Marginson replied Australia was also “more caught up than the United Kingdom is.” In the U.S. conflict with China, while also being more centric regionally.
“After 20 golden years brought out in part by Chinese students, Australian universities are facing a bad period; in fact, this has already arrived,” he said.
William Locke, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education in Melbourne, said that the impact of the border restrictions in Australia would rely on universities’ capacity to attract international students to study online, at least initially, with the promise of later in-person study.
“This will be about more than just the quality of online learning and, in a simulation of the on-campus experience, about connecting with domestic Australian and other international students,” he said.
Locke placed that “it may help that the main rivals for Australian universities, the United States and the United Kingdom, are in a far worse situation with the pandemic and the political turmoil of Trump and Brexit.” However, he said that the government’s “Australians first” discourse did not help the country’s prospects.
“Sooner rather than later, any announcements about loosening restrictions will have to be made, giving time for students and universities to prepare and give a positive message about Australia being fully open again in 2022,” he said.
The sad reality is that there is little community support within Australia for international students to return ahead of Australians trapped overseas because of our closed border,” Sydney-based tertiary education consultant Claire Field said.”
Although Australia may lose some prospective international students as a result of our closed international border, at this stage, the impact on the industry is unknowable,” she said.” “If the introduction of the vaccine allows a staggered return to Australia of students throughout 2021, Australia is likely to remain an attractive destination.”