According to a survey of 200 representatives from 44 universities, 71% said that students will be able to return to Australia in meaningful numbers in 2022, but only in semester two. Some 16% suggested that meaningful numbers would return in semester one.
The remaining 13% said that they did not expect international students to return in 2022.
“Universities are not optimistic in seeing international students return to Australia in the first half of 2022,” Jake Foster, chief commercial officer at AECC Global said.
The education consultancy carried out the research at the 2021 AIEC on October 6.
If the 13% of leaders – including associate directors, international recruitment managers, partnership directors, pro vice-chancellor (international), directors, CEOs and other senior managers – indicating they did not expect students return are correct, it would be “disastrous” for the country’s economy, Foster commented.
“It would be disastrous for the Australian economy and for Australian businesses desperate for skilled overseas students if international students did not return in meaningful numbers to Australia in 2022,” he said.
The overall respondents were positive about the country remaining an attractive place to study in 2022, with 64% saying they were positive and 31% very positive. A mere 6% answered that they were negative about it being an attractive destination.
“95% of Australian education industry leaders are positive or very positive about Australia as a study destination”
Around a week after the country’s Therapeutic Goods Administration recognised Sinovac and Covishield on October 1, leaders are also hopeful for the government to recognise more student vaccines.
Some 75% said they thought the government will recognise most student vaccines, with 7% saying the government will not recognise vaccines for the majority of students. A considerable number (19%) said they were unsure.
“It is great to see that even after one and a half years of serious challenges that 95% of Australian education industry leaders are positive or very positive about Australia as a study destination,” Foster added.
“We are seeing optimism from Australian universities about the government recognition of foreign Covid-19 vaccines.”
The survey also found that 57% of respondents were “very willing” to travel to key recruitment markets in 2022, and 36% moderately willing to do so.
Some 84% of those surveyed had already been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with 12% having had their first dose.
“It is great to see the vast majority of leaders in Australian international education are leading by example with 84% already fully vaccinated against Covid-19,” Foster concluded.