Border closure in Australia has influenced international students enrollment
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Border closure in Australia has influenced international students enrollment

The strict border closure in Australia has influenced international students' willingness to enrol in Australian universities. According to the Riverine Herald via the Australian Associated Press, Adventus findings show that the number of students applying to study abroad at Australian universities has dropped. At the same time, the country's borders remain closed (AAP).

According to the SaaS-based student recruitment platform, international student applications to Australian universities have dropped by 51% since March of this year. 

According to the report, the most recent government figures for November show that there are currently 259,752 student visa holders in Australia, with more than half of them enrolled in higher education or postgraduate research. According to data, there are still 148,464 student visa holders living outside of Australia.

According to Universities Australia's Deputy Chief Executive Anne-Marie Lansdown, there has been a 40% drop in international students starting from pre-pandemic levels.

“The closure of international borders during the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously had an impact on the willingness of international students to enrol at an Australian university,” Lansdown told AAP. “Nonetheless, the fundamental attractiveness of an Australian education has not changed.”

Lansdown, however, is optimistic a “corner has been turned” as pilot plans have been announced to return international students to New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

Australia’s loss is other international student markets’ gain? 

While international student applications to Australian universities have decreased, Adventus discovered that since March, applications have increased by 148 per cent in Canada, 150 per cent in the United Kingdom, and 422 per cent in the United States, fueled in part by the platform's growth in those countries. According to Adventus CEO Ryan Trainor, students who would typically choose Australia as a study destination are looking elsewhere.

“This may have a long-term impact on the country as we have lost nearly two years of students, and the flow-on effect may have longer-term implications if the government does not create a united, every-state message to the students worldwide,” Trainor told AAP.

Australia’s border closures

International students have been locked out of Australia for close to 19 months, while many have campaigned for their return. 

In speaking about Australia’s border closure, Dr Aisi Li, assistant professor at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education, notes: “It is well reported that international students are essential for sustaining and developing Australian higher education. The drop in international student numbers will lead to a revenue loss of the universities and have a knock-on effect of job cuts or downsizing. And some might even collapse.” 

Li has a DPhil in Educational Studies from the University of Oxford and specialises in the internationalisation of higher education. She believes that Australian universities and the government should put students at the centre of their strategies to avoid negative consequences and entice international students to return to Australia.

“This includes providing high-quality programmes, creating a safe learning and living environment, networks that provide structural support in an emergency, and employment opportunities or other career pathways after the completion of their degrees,” she tells Study International.

While universities worldwide have had to rely on online learning during the pandemic, Li suggests that universities seeking to re-enter the international student market should leverage their experience with online and hybrid teaching and learning during the pandemic and re-design their programmes for international students.

“For example, in addition to in-person programmes, there can be hybrid programmes with the students conducting part of the study online and part on campus, and online programmes with students studying the entire programme online,” she says.

“The new models are likely to be less costly and therefore can attract the students who were previously excluded mainly by the financial reasons. However, I should emphasise that the successful delivery of such programmes must be based on their quality and accompanied by excellent student experience.”

Chinmayee Rout

Chinmayee Rout completed her graduation from Delhi, pursuing her goals of being a passionate reader and writer. She has worked with ET and PTI and many big agencies. Being a Delhiite, she’s fond of hopping food stalls and travelling to new places. She connects with the world through her writings