Australia’s Education Minister Alan Tudge has said that he is optimistic about the prospect of a rebound in the international student sector.
The past 18 months have been tough for the international education sector, Tudge told the Australian International Education Conference on Oct 8.
Student enrolments have declined by 70 percent since this time in 2019 for English language providers, whereas enrolments for public universities as a whole has declined by 17 percent.
“Those providers that have been more dependent on the Indian, Nepalese, and Vietnamese—as opposed to the Chinese market—have also been hit very hard,” Tudge said.
However, the federal education minister is optimistic about the path forward given national vaccination rates have been increasing.
Australia is getting close to achieving 70 and 80 percent vaccination targets. According to the national plan to reopen the country, international students can start to return to Australia at 70 percent and then in even larger numbers from 80 percent.
Tudge promised that mechanisms will be put in place to allow for safe entry of large numbers of international arrivals.
An International COVID-19 Vaccine Certificate will be introduced this month. Currently, the certificate will be for outbound travel for Australians, but there are hopes that it will be expanded to authenticate vaccination certificates issued by other countries.
Tudge expects that small numbers of international students will return to Australia later this year. Meanwhile, the Victorian state government has on Oct. 7, already submitted to the federal government its plan for international students to return. The plan is currently in review.
If approved, hundreds of students will be expected to return to study in Victoria at the end of the year.
At stage one of the plan, priority will be given to enrolled students undertaking practical work such as medical or health students, or those completing their degrees or postgraduate research. Up to 120 places will be open each week for international university students.
Stage two will cover arrivals of international students enrolled in TAFEs, English-language courses, private colleges, and secondary schools.
The state of New South Wales is also expecting to have 500 international students return in December.
The Council for International Education is working with the state of South Australia on the final details of the pilot plan approved in June this year.
Prior to the pandemic, international education was Australia’s third-largest export sector with a revenue of $37.6 billion in 2019.
Since the pandemic around 17,300 university jobs have been cut nationally.
International education revenue for the 2020-21 financial have dropped by 28 percent to $26.7 billion and is expected to drop by the end of year at the current rate if lockdowns continue.