Australian Education Minister: COVID-19 Impact on Enrolments Not as Bad as Expected

The Federal Education Minister, Alan Tudge, said that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on universities has not been as bad as it was initially expected, calling on the latter to pay attention to domestic students and in-person learning.

During the Universities Australia conference, Tudge said he hopes international students will be able to return to the country under “small pilot programs” this year, claiming that the most recent proposal from South Australia over international students’ return is “promising,” reports.

“The impact on enrolments, at least on aggregate, has not been as great as what we might have initially expected. I looked at the most recent figures last night, and they show that international student enrolments at university are down only 11% at this point in time compared to the same point in time in 2019,” Tudge said.

Nevertheless, data have shown that there were 43,000 fewer international students in Australia between 2020 and 2021, and over 17,000 workers at Australian universities have been dismissed since the beginning of the pandemic.

During the conference, Tudge said that international students could return to Australia within months under the two pilot programs in South Australia and New South Wales, making no promises about when the country will bring students back to campuses in large numbers.

“When will the borders open? And when will we receive larger student numbers returning? I can’t answer that question,” he said, adding that based on budget assumption, there will be large numbers of international students in Australia during the second half of 2022.

Tudge called on universities to make Australian domestic students a priority and to return the previous in-person learning allowed by COVID-19 rules.

“But I am still hearing from too many students directly or their parents, and I hear this all the time, who tell me that their usual student experience has still not returned. They may have got only one contact hour per week – despite the fact that when they enrolled in the particular course, there was an expectation that this was a course that had tutorials and lectures in person,” he emphasized.

He also urged the universities to sign up to the French model code on free speech, a voluntary code by former high court chief justice Robert French, developed after the government initiated an inquiry into university freedom of speech, claiming that eight universities have not signed up to the code.

Australian universities have been enrolling students even while borders remain closed and many students pursue studies online. A recent survey by the student recruitment agency IDP revealed that only seven percent of international students planning to study at any university in Australia would prefer to study online, whereas 38 percent of students said they would be satisfied to study online at the beginning if learning would switch to in-person later. 

According to a report from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, the lack of international students in Australia could cost the country’s economy around $20bn by next year.

Get The Latest Higher Education News Sent Directly To Your Inbox

Recent Articles

86% of US Universities Plan to Resume In-Person Study This Fall, Survey Finds

US higher education institutions expressed optimism that international enrolments and study abroad numbers will start recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic soon, the latest...

Dallas College Cancels Student Debt That Was Owed to the Institution for 14,000 Students

Dallas College located in Dallas, Texas, canceled student debt that was owed to the college for a total of 14,000 students in...

Scotland Expands COVID-19 Vaccination Programme to Include International Students

Scotland has decided to expand the national COVID-19 vaccination program to include international students, the Scottish Government has announced.

US Education Department Withholding Debt Discharges for Over 500,000 Student Borrowers, Organization Says

More than half a million student loan borrowers in the United States could have their student debt canceled under federal law, but...

Oxford Students Remove Queen Elizabeth II’s Portrait Claiming It Symbolizes Colonialism

Graduate students at Oxford University’s Magdalen College have voted to remove Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait from their gathering place at the university,...

Related Stories