Australasian experts: no overseas student influx before late 2022

While Australasian international education leaders are upbeat about vaccination, few expect ‘meaningful’ student arrivals any time soon

October 7, 2021
student with a backpack waiting for the train to stop to go outside
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Fewer than one in six Australasian international education executives believe overseas students will arrive in “meaningful numbers” before July, and almost one in seven expect to be waiting until 2023.

Research conducted on the sidelines of the Australian International Education Conference has uncovered widespread pessimism about the industry’s medium-term future, despite recent positive developments.

They include the Australian government’s endorsement of a New South Wales plan to admit hundreds of international students from December, and Victoria’s approval of a smaller-scale pilot. Canberra has also recognised the immunisation efficacy of two vaccines widely used by overseas students, and has flagged the removal of international travel restrictions for Australian citizens.

In New Zealand, the government’s decision to ease back on its Covid “elimination” strategy signals an increasing reliance on vaccination, buoying hopes that immunised students could be admitted from early next year despite the current outbreak in Auckland.

Nevertheless, 84 per cent of 200-plus education executives surveyed by education consultancy AECC Global said that they did not expect a significant influx of overseas students before the second semester of 2022.

The respondents, from 44 universities in Australia and New Zealand, included international recruitment, marketing, operations and government relations specialists at the manager, director and pro vice-chancellor level.

AECC Global’s chief commercial officer, Jake Foster, said universities were “not optimistic” about the return of international students in the first half of next year. “It would be disastrous for the Australian economy, and for Australian businesses desperate for skilled overseas students, if [they] did not return in meaningful numbers in 2022,” he said.

The survey revealed more optimism around vaccines, with three-quarters of respondents saying they expected most types favoured by students to be recognised by Australia for immigration purposes. Ninety-three per cent said they would be willing to travel overseas for recruitment activities in 2022.

All respondents were either vaccinated or planning to be so, with 96 per cent having received their first doses and 84 per cent their second. “The vast majority of leaders in Australian international education are leading by example,” Mr Foster said.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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