Asia Minute: Challenges for Australia’s International Students

Mar 29, 2021

More students are returning to classrooms, here in Hawai‘i and around the country. But one group of college students remains in low numbers: those from overseas. And in Australia, some government officials are looking to boost those numbers.

International students represent an important revenue stream for many Australian universities.

More than half a million students hold Australian visas—mostly from China, but also with large numbers from India, Vietnam, Brazil and South Korea.

Government figures show they bring more than $30 billion to Australia’s economy in a normal year.

Of course, it’s a very different story this year—Australia’s borders have been closed since last March.

According to the group Professionals in International Education, about a third of student visa holders have been stuck outside the country.

Some government officials are looking to ease their re-entry—possibly creating exemptions for vaccinated students—or creating charter flights and specific quarantine facilities.

Leaders of different states have varying positions on this.

The premier of New South Wales, home to Sydney, has been urging the federal government to bring students back—the premier of Victoria, home to Melbourne, says achieving that in 2021 would be “incredibly challenging, if not impossible.”

Meanwhile, a growing number of students are simply looking elsewhere.

The publication “Inside Higher Education” quotes an Oxford academic who says it may take five years or longer for Australia’s international student enrollment to return to levels of 2019.