Australia is continuing to lose South Asian students to other countries such as the UK, Canada and the US. There is an estimation that the trend will continue into 2022.
Indian students contributed AUS$6.6 billion to the Australian economy in 2019-20, second only to China, and has been a consistent growth area over the last five years. However, the second half of 2020 saw a significant drop in interest.
Similarly, the number of Nepali students in Australia has grown by three times since 2016 when the size was around 21,000. Nepali students contributed around USD 2.6 billion to the Australian economy in 2018/19, up from USD 1.6 billion the previous year. Nepal is the third-largest source of foreign students in Australia, behind China and India.
According to data from the Department of Education, Australian HE saw a 35 percent decline in new international students enrolling in July-November 2020, with enrolments from Indian students dropping by more than 80 percent in that period to just 2,500.
In comparison, the decline in new Chinese student enrolments was around 8 percent.
There was still a definite pipeline of students to Australia. A survey carried out by AAERI in August 2020 indicated that while less than 10 percent of Indian students were keen to study online and there were deferments, the majority of the students were still not cancelling their study plans.
At that time, the students from the Indian sub-continent were going by the announcement of the Australian prime minister that by August international students would begin being returned under Stage Three of the return to normalcy.
Student visas were continuing to be approved and granted and there are 15,000 students from the sub-continent studying one to two subjects online. They all started doing that in expectation of being able to return to Australia by the first intake of 2021.
However, students are fed up and looking elsewhere.
There’s a general feeling of a lack of interest on the part of the government. The government doesn’t seem to be indicating anything positive for the students who are in the pipeline so they would prefer a destination that is open like the UK or Canada or even the US.
But on the other hand, the government is continuing to issue student visas. Consultancies shared that if the Australian government doesn’t have a real intent to bring the students back until the end of the year then they should just tell them to study online and apply for a visa when the borders open. The moment a visa is given students expect that they’ll be able to travel and that’s just not happening.
Less than 10 percent of students were willing to study online for longer than one semester.
Students don’t want to pay USD 30,000-35,000 a year to study on their mobile phones at home and institutions have started offering these discounts because they don’t have any other options.
The writing has been there on the wall that you can’t offer the same fees for online as face to face but it took them six months to understand that and expect large numbers of online enrolments from South Asia because that’s just not the case. These students want to experience a foreign land.
If action is not taken now Australia will continue to lose the South Asian market and will need to invest significant time and money to regain the momentum that had been building. Ongoing talk of proposals for pilot flights and return plans that don’t come to fruition are doing more harm than good.