Australian universities have witnessed a significant recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, attracting an additional 42,830 students in April 2023, a remarkable increase from the previous year. This growing number of international students is a testament to the resilience of the Australian education sector, which has been steadily regaining its pre-pandemic strength.
Raghwa Gopal, CEO of education management company M Square Media (MSM), commented, “The surge in student numbers we’re seeing is a strong indicator of the global trust in Australian universities. Despite the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, students worldwide are choosing Australia as their study destination, recognizing the quality and value of the education here.”
Economic Contributions of International Students
The influx of international students has significant economic implications. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, international students contributed over $40.1 billion to the Australian economy and supported more than 250,000 jobs. In 2022, despite the pandemic, international students still managed to contribute $25.5 billion to the economy. Furthermore, students pursuing education online added an extra $3.5 billion, reinforcing the value of international students to the Australian economy.
Gopal commented, “International students not only bring diverse perspectives to our classrooms, but they also significantly bolster the economy. Their contribution goes beyond the tuition fees; they also spend on housing, dining, transportation, and other services, thus supporting local businesses and creating jobs.”
Challenges for International Students
While the growth in student numbers is a positive sign, there have been reports of financial struggles and rising living costs affecting the student community. Many international students in Australia have experienced food insecurity, as a result of the financial stress of living and studying in a foreign country.
Despite these challenges, research shows a decline in the percentage of international students in Sydney and Melbourne experiencing financial insecurity, falling from 44 percent in 2019 to 30 percent in 2020. Gopal noted, “While it’s encouraging to see this decline, it’s crucial that we continue to support our international students and find ways to mitigate the financial challenges they face.”
Future of Australian Higher Education
Australia’s decision during the pandemic to instruct international students to return to their home countries led to the loss of many students. However, efforts are being made to restore student enrollment to pre-pandemic levels.
As of December 2022, over 600,000 international students were studying in Australia, with a majority hailing from China and India. These figures indicate a bright future for Australia’s international education sector, reflecting its global appeal and the high value placed on Australian education.
Gopal also noted, “The resilience and adaptability demonstrated by Australian universities have been remarkable. While there are still hurdles to overcome, the future of international education in Australia looks promising.”