Due to the pandemic’s stifling effects on the number of international students, Australia’s higher education system has been one of the nation’s worst impacted industries, with its revenue being reduced in half. Covid-19 and the government’s “Fortress Australia” policy-related response of tight border controls stopped the influx of international students. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that, in the year ending in June, revenue from this crucial resource for universities decreased to A$20.2 billion ($13.8 billion). For the same period in 2019, prior to the epidemic, A$38.7 billion was spent.
Universities and their business schools moved quickly to move courses online and develop strategies for keeping in touch with students who were imprisoned and unable to travel back to their native nations. However, enrollment from abroad decreased. According to government statistics, there were 956 773 foreign students enrolled in Australian universities in 2019; more than 750,000 of these students paid all tuition costs while on a student visa. This year, that number has decreased to about 446,000.
The sector has grown “increasingly reliant on international student fees, casual employment, and the underpayment of staff dysfunctions which were exacerbated by the pandemic,” according to Eliza Littleton, an economist at the Australia Institute public policy think-tank.
She points out that 35,000 jobs, nearly one in every five were lost in the higher education sector as a result of Australian universities seeing revenue decreases for the first time in eight years in 2021.
There is now more pressure on academic faculty to raise their teaching burden, according to Roy Green, an emeritus professor and former business school dean at the University of Technology Sydney. While this is going on, funding for research initiatives, which is frequently provided by foreign student fees, has been reduced, leading many postdoctoral students and early-career researchers to go abroad. It resulted in demoralisation in the higher education industry.
With initiatives to simplify visas, Australia hopes to get more foreign students to return to its shores to increase enrollment and both to increase enrollment and to convince more of them to apply for citizenship.
The higher education industry and the broader economy are concerned about the number of departing students. Australia runs the risk of a “brain drain” if it loses its top students to other countries while also failing to keep in-country students once they graduate. At the same time, despite unemployment rates that are close to 50-year lows, a labour shortage exists across the nation.
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