International students fear the cost of returning to Australia as pilot schemes announced | Australian universities

The Covid-ravaged university sector has welcomed the news that international students may return to Australia as early as December. New South Wales Victoria agreed to beta programs to bring her back.

But some students stranded abroad say they are concerned about the cost of returning and fear 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 database of courses, shows Australia has slipped into the ranks of preferred destinations, losing out to Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Australia’s strict border measures have had a huge impact on the sector, with the number of international registrants down by 210,000 this year, while 130,000 international students were studying online.

International student revenue has been the backbone of the industry, with $40 billion pumped into its coffers in 2019. In August, a report from the Mitchell Institute revealed that universities suffered a 6% decline, or $2.2 billion, in 2020.

The governments of New South Wales and Victoria this week announced pilot programs to bring students back into the country. In NSW 250 students will be allowed to return every two weeks and in Victoria, the number will be set to 120 weeks initially.

The development is backed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approval this week for Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (Indian-made AstraZeneca) vaccines for incoming international travelers.

Quarantine will be regulated differently in each state. While it will be free for students in NSW, universities in Victoria will decide who pays the $5,000 bill.

Some international students worry that they may have to pay exorbitant amounts to return, in addition to high tuition fees and living expenses.

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

Stella, President of the Deakin Overseas Students and Vietnamese Extension Association Quang said Vietnamese students welcomed the news but were concerned about costs.

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

She said students were also concerned about which degrees would get priority entry.

“We do the courses online and we pay the fees in full,” Kwang said. “I study media and communication, and all of my courses can be offered online.” “I am not on my priority list that I need to go back, but I have paid a lot to be there, use the infrastructure and experience the on-campus face-to-face.”

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Every other state and territory is developing its own pilot, and Australian Universities chief executive Catriona Jackson said she would be watching closely.

She said the additional $1 billion in federal funding for research in the 2020 budget helped limit job losses, but that wasn’t enough to keep the sector afloat.

“I lost $1.8 billion last year, and $2 billion will be lost this year,” she said. “These are not blows that you can absorb without doing damage.”

The President of the National Association of Higher Education, Dr Alison Barnes, welcomed the return of international students, but expressed concern about the sector’s dependence on them.

“Reliance on international student fees, to fill gaps in teaching and research funding, has exacerbated the Covid crisis at universities and has seen 35,000 employees lose their jobs,” Barnes said. “We simply can’t go back to that model.”

Not all federations are struggling

At Australia’s G8 universities – the country’s leading research institutions – Chinese students continue to enroll in large numbers.

Enrollment rates in China are up 6.4% compared to July last year, according to federal data.

Go8 CEO Vicki Thompson said the group was concerned about losing more students to outside competition.

“Enrollment of international students at G8 universities, particularly in the field of postgraduate research, remains strong,” she said. “There is a real risk that in the long term closing borders will further impact enrollment in 2022/23 as competing markets in the US, UK and Canada offer education and incentives head-on.”

Research by IDP Connect 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 had a 20% share, it was above the US, it was on par with the UK and behind Canada,” said Andrew Wharton, IDP client manager. Demand has fallen to 9%.

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

He said Australia could reverse this trend by communicating a clear plan to international students and encouraging them to study in areas where there is a skill shortage.

Everything hangs when the borders open. But if Australia can deliver a roadmap to international students, and deliver a greater range of returns, this could be an opportunity.”

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