Before the pandemic, international education contributed A$40 billion ($29 billion) to the economy, making the sector the fourth-largest export after iron ore, coal and gas, the report said…reports Asian Lite News.
As Australias decision to shut its borders in March 2020 pushed people to look elsewhere, international enrolments plummeted by more than 200,000 in the 20-month period up to August of this year, according to Department of Education, Skills and Employment data, Al Jazeera reported.
Students from China, India and other Asian countries have long been drawn to Australia to study due to its high-ranking universities, English-speaking environment and comfortable lifestyle.
Before the pandemic, international education contributed A$40 billion ($29 billion) to the economy, making the sector the fourth-largest export after iron ore, coal and gas, the report said.
International students made up 21 per cent of all university enrolments in 2019, compared with an average 6 per cent among developed countries, according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures, the report added.
In August, the number of students from overseas sank to its lowest number since 2015, at just over 550,000.
Chinese nationals made up the biggest proportion of foreign students, followed by those from India, Nepal, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Earlier this month, recruitment platform Adventus reported that applications by international students had declined by 51 per cent since March, whereas applications to Canada, the UK and the US had soared by 148-422 per cent, the report added.
Although Australia reopened its borders to citizens and permanent residents on November 1, the government has not provided any timetable for when international students will be able to return to the country en masse.
States and territories including Victoria and New South Wales have announced pilot schemes to welcome international students in extremely limited numbers from next month. Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge said in October he hoped tens of thousands of students would be able to return sometime next year.
About 145,000 student visa holders currently exist in limbo overseas after deferring their studies or opting to do their coursework online.
Andrew Norton, an expert in higher education policy at Australian National University, said international enrollments would not return to 2019 levels any time soon but it was difficult to predict the longer-term trajectory, the report said.