International students number on massive decline for Australia – What’s future ahead

International students number on massive decline for Australia – What’s future ahead

International student intake for Australia is on decline since early 2020, the factors contributing to this decline is just not limited with COVID19. There are various other factors which are putting Brand Australia down currently which can be:

  • Response from Ministers,
  • Australian Government indecisiveness about borders ,
  • Education provider’s hesitancy in pushing their point of view and overall
  • Treatment of International students as second class citizens in Australian society during this pandemic.


2017 : 13% growth for international students
2018 : 11% growth for international students
2019 : 9% growth for international students
2020 : -8% growth for international students


2017 : 622,905
2018 : 692,506
2019 : 758,154
2020 : 677,369

Since March 2020, Australian borders are closed for International students and temporary visa holders with very rare exceptions of exemptions from Australian Border Force. At start, the way Australian Government handled the pandemic was a role model example for whole world to follow and everyone did appreciate the actions been taken to limit the affect of Pandemic on Australian society as well as on Australian economy. In 2020, Australia was the 13th-largest national economy by nominal GDP,[34] 18th-largest by PPP-adjusted GDP,[35] and was the 25th-largest goods exporter and 20th-largest goods importer.[36] Australia took the record for the longest run of uninterrupted GDP growth in the developed world with the March 2017 financial quarter, the 103rd quarter and marked 26 years since the country had a technical recession (two consecutive quarters of negative growth).[37](Source:

During all these pandemic handling process and so called growth of Australian economy, INTERNATIONAL STUDENT INDUSTRY has played a vital role. In 2018-19 as per Australia’s Education Minister, Dan Tehan, International student industry surge to a record high $37.6 billion, which was expected to hit more than $45.0 Billion in 2020-2021 as per exponential growth of the industry. But with turn of events and the way politicians have handled issues with this industry has put the Industry at risk of survival. As of now, Australia is trailing behind Canada, UK, USA and New Zealand in international market. Negativity around brand Australia is growing a lot by every passing weeks with no clear vision or directives from any stake holders.

During all these times of Pandemic, on 4th of April 2020, Austrlian Prime minister somehow out of sheer frustration or lack of industry knowledge announced that International students and Visitor visa holders can and/or should go back to their country of origin as Australia can not support them. This one statement from Australian Prime Minister has generated world wide criticism and harmed Australia as preferred destination. During such time itself, Migration policy changes too impacted the industry. This is naked fact that education in Australia is directly related with Migration and settlement in Australia. Limiting occupation lists under PMSOL LIST, stopping offshore migrations and unacceptability of students stuck offshore have limited attractiveness of brand Australia.

No one would advise or support to open the borders and take risk the health of society or affecting economy more than what been done already. But surely there can be way to explore limited openings in various stages as what Northern Territory did with 63 students in months of Nov – Dec 2020. Closing borders with each outburst with no certain frame of action plan will only put thousands of international students in panic with uncertainty about their future. As advised before, no way we can risk the health of society or putting economy under pressure of 3rd or 4th round of Job keepers and Job seekers payment system but Industry need clear direction. These flip flop on borders opening will not hold good for any stake holders. If you don’t know when you will open up door for your house for tenants then why are you asking them to sign the lease and start paying the rent even if it’s at reduced rate. Visas are getting granted offshore, Education providers are taking enrollments with no certain frame as when these students will see the sun in Australia and forcing them to study online at discounted fee structure? Why an international student should pay any fee for services which he wants to experience in physical presence in their desired country for their education and settlement. Yes, lot of people including Immigration department will start asking questions about Ministerial direction 69 about Genuine Temporary Entrant Criteria for Student visa grant? Please do look into statics, and see how many these GTE bounded students have said good bye to Australia to settle down in their country of origin and contributing to economy of their country by being there. We can turn our eyes from crime place but we can not ignore the crime all together.

So, lets get together as industry stake holders to have one common, unified direction for the industry as we can not see 4th biggest sector of economy to go down like this. It takes years to make the brand and seconds to spoil it. We need to put clear directions and clear time frame amid this uncertain pandemic period. I am not criticizing anyone here but

  • yes i am against the way situations have been handled
  • yes i am against the way international students been treated
  • yes i am against the way this issue has been politicized
  • yes i am against putting unwanted expectations of uncertain future for young teens

No one is asking to open the borders tomorrow and let Virus have the free passage in our society. Vaccines are on the way in possible 6-10 weeks, industry all around are now more capable of handling the pandemic then before so lets have pilot program by each state that from April 2021 – we will welcome 250 students per week. Numbers can fluctuate but at least have clear direction where industry is going to go? Put 100s of condition, for example:

  • Each student need to quarantine 14 days in their country of origin
  • Each education provider has to manage these quarantine offshore as well as onshore
  • Make temporary Onshore quarantine on farms with International students to work at Farm for 2 weeks after first 14 days of Quarantine. That will help Australian agriculture industry too which is in desperate need of work force.
  • Continuous monitoring of these student for first 45 days etc.

If there is a will then there should be a way out too. ICC world cup got cancelled in Australia and New Zealand due to COVID fear, but IPL went ahead with Bio security, Team Bubble and restricted stadiums – what happened during IPL should be considered as a case study in such situations. Not even one casualty due to COVID during whole IPL which generated millions of dollars in revenue world wide as well as given millions of people something to laugh about during stressful pandemic times. Again, its not about one country or one religion or one region – its about creative ways to handle the situation to make things work out in a better way for sustainable future for all stake holders.

Its time to act in positive way for survival of this industry. Clear direction, restrictive measures and continuous monitoring has to be there without mixing vote bank politics here. Health and well being of society is of paramount importance and no would ever ask to compromise on it. But at the same time, lets put clear pathway for students, education providers and for industry as a whole to able to plan for uncertain future.

Below are numbers of International student by each country from Jan 2020 till Oct 2020. From 9% overall growth, we have gone down to 8% losses and numbers will dip a lot when new data will come for first quarter of 2021.

Hope some commonsense and positive planning will prevail for survival of this industry for long term. Positive comments, knowledge sharing and idea explorations are more than welcome.

January-October 2020

Share: 100%, Growth: -8%

677,369 students in Australia

Number of Students
China 188377
India 113342
Nepal 51904
Vietnam 23943
Brazil 21459
Malaysia 19963
Colombia 18838
Korea, Republic of (South) 17983
Philippines 17194
Indonesia 16894
Pakistan 14923
Thailand 14508
Sri Lanka 13091
Hong Kong 13432
Taiwan 10906
Japan 9298
United States of America 8451
Singapore 6886
Bangladesh 6690
United Kingdom 6122
Saudi Arabia 5425
Italy 5168
Canada 4301
Spain 4261
France 3980
Chile 3704
Kenya 3416
Germany 3320
Bhutan 3269
Mongolia 2821
Cambodia 2731
Mexico 2439
Myanmar 2274
Iran 2186
Nigeria 2014
Turkey 1778
Mauritius 1777
Argentina 1395
Norway 1315
Peru 1265



Posted by Satya Shukla on January 11, 2021

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