High Commissioner: Australia Risks Losing Thousands of Indian Students Due to Tight Border Restrictions

Australia might harm its education reputation among international students if it does not provide them with information about their return to the country, in particular Indian students, India’s high commissioner to Australia, Manpreet Vohra said.

According to Vohra, thousands of international students who have not been permitted to return to Australia might be experiencing uncertainty and anxiety due to the country extending travel restrictions, Erudera.com reports.

He told the Guardian Australia that online education was not what these students signed up for, adding that it would be a “pity” if students change their minds and decide to head to other countries to pursue higher education.

Since the beginning of July, some 158,000 student visa holders remained outside Australia, out of which 88,769 students from China, followed by India with a total of 17,008 student visa holders.

Vohra said it would be understandable if pandemic restrictions remained in force for a period of time, but the lack of information about when the restrictions are expected to end triggers a lot of frustration and uncertainty among students.

“That is not good for the students, of course, directly affected; that is perhaps also not good for the overall image of Australia as a great place for Indian students,” Vohra stressed.

He also said that the Australian government had been urged to consider ways to “signal to the students a timeframe by which they can expect to be back.”

By the end of April, the Australian government notified that anyone who had been staying in India during the last two weeks and tried to enter Australia would face huge fines and jail. The United Nations human rights officials voiced concerns about this measure which was then decided to be annulled.

Among others, Vohra disclosed that Australian and Indian officials are expected to begin discussions on a free trade agreement soon, following the Morrison government’s efforts to offset the repeated tensions between Australia and China.

Last week, the Australian Education Minister, Alan Tudge, said that studying during the pandemic has been challenging for many international students and emphasized that the latter will be welcomed back as early as possible. 

A Department of Education spokesperson told Erudera earlier this year that the Australian government is working with states and territories to allow international students return “when conditions allow.” 

According to the International Education Association figures, Australia has lost more than 100,000 international students during the past financial year due to the entry ban, with the decrease costing the Australian economy a $60,000 loss from each student’s overall spending in the country.

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