Australian Research Impacted by Loss of Foreign Student Revenue

September 21, 2020 Updated: September 21, 2020

The Australian government is looking for ways to help the struggling higher education sector to adapt to the financial loss caused by fewer overseas students amid the CCP virus pandemic.

Dan Tehan, the federal minister for education, told ABC Radio National on Sept. 21 that the university sector was seeing significant economic losses on par with the tourism sector.

“The international student market is a $40 billion national income earner for our nation. It provides 250,000 jobs. So, we’re working with the sector to see what we can do to help and support when it comes to research and research jobs,” said Tehan.

It was estimated that the sector will lose between $3.1 and $4.8 billion in revenue this year and it is predicted the financial losses will continue next year.

Australian research will be impacted by this loss of revenue, says Catriona Jackson, the CEO of Universities Australia, the peak body for higher education.

Universities Australia has estimated that $3.3 billion, or about 27 percent, of university research and development budgets are currently in doubt.

Jackson said in a media release published on Sept. 1: “The reduction in revenue to support researchers means real talent will be lost and universities will be unable to provide essential funds for important new and existing work.”

“Every researcher lost to the system is one person fewer working on Australia’s most important problems and represents the loss of years of human and intellectual capital.”

But before international students can return the federal government has to help more than 25,000 Australians stranded overseas who want to come home, and open its internal borders.

“It’s obviously complicated, especially with what happened in Victoria with the quarantine system there. That’s put a huge hole in our ability to be able to bring people into Australia and quarantine them,” Tehan said.

“We’ve got to make sure, first of all, that we’re getting Australian residents back into the country and getting them properly quarantined, so they can return home. And, also, we’ve got to make sure that when it comes to state borders, that we can get free movement of domestic students so that they can go to university, whether it be in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne,” Tehan said.

South Australia (SA) is pushing forward with a pilot program that might see 300 international students return to Australia, but this and another similar program floated by the Northern Territory have not yet been approved by the federal government.

A spokesperson for the SA government told SBS Punjabi Radio on Sept. 3: “The South Australian Government is still working closely with the Commonwealth and relevant agencies to ensure a pilot program provides a safe return for up to 300 international students.”

“At this stage, the program hasn’t received final approval, and therefore details about the program, including students’ nationalities cannot be confirmed,” the spokesperson explained.