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Australia hopeful that safety record and flex on visas will bear fruit

Australia’s international education sector has been one of the hardest hit by Covid -19, but the hard lessons learned has put the country in a position to be stronger than ever according to industry representatives.

Australia’s international education sector has been one of the hardest hit by Covid -19. Photo: Pexels

"Happily we believe NSW pilot flights will happen very soon as well"

However, real concerns about an erosion of the pipeline of on-shore students transferring on to HE were raised in a robust discussion at The PIE Live.

Chair of the International Education Association of Australia Phil Honeywood said he believes the country will see a “good dividend” due to the innovation and agility institutions have shown, competitive policies around post-study work arrangements and the management of the virus.

“We haven’t seen a student, a tourist or working holiday student basically since March”

Currently, Australia’s international borders remain closed and while this cautious approach is causing frustration to providers who believe Australia will miss out to countries such as Canada and the UK, Honeywood said the strong management of the pandemic is something that could be a key to giving Australia the edge down the track.

Honeywood also welcomed the announcement of pilot projects to commence this month to bring students back.

“We’re looking at pilot programs where South Australia and the Northern Territory have got permission from the federal government to bring returning students back into their states and happily we believe NSW will happen very soon as well.

“So we’re gradually bringing students back and we need to prove up the quarantine measures for them to the wider Australian community,” he said.

New concessions on student and post-study work visa arrangement have also been a shot in the arm for the sector with online off-shore study for eligible students to be counted towards post-study work rights meaning students may only have to undertake six months face-to-face study in Australia to qualify.

“[This] compares favourably to Canada which requires you to do half your course face-to-face and favourably to the UK’s one semester.

We also have a very good student visa flexibility package now which is also providing fee waivers and visa extensions at no cost for students who are in Australia and can’t go home or want to stay in Australia because of our health and safety policies and want to go on with studies.”

In further promising news for the sector, the National Council for International Education – comprising six federal ministers and 11 non-ministerial expert members, chaired by Honeywood – is working on a whole new strategy for international education for the next 10 years, which includes a governance structure which will see all state and territory governments participate.

“We’re gradually bringing students back and we need to prove up the quarantine measures for them”

While the federal government’s support of international students stuck in Australia has drawn criticism for its timeliness and lack of coordination, the whole of country response to student welfare has been praised.

“We had to rely on individual education providers, state governments, city governments and to some extent the federal government… but I’ve been incredibly surprised by how well different welfare provisions have come forward,” said Honeywood.

“This includes no eviction policies in every state, food vouchers, shopping vouchers, and many other provisions for students who are caught here and can’t return home. So overall we’ve had some swings and roundabouts but we’re coping with the pandemic fairly well.”

The sentiment was echoed by fellow panellist Tayyeb Shah deputy vice-chancellor (Global Partnerships) at The University of Western Australia who said this joint approach has helped foster relationships and goodwill.

“The [UWA] alumni got together and organised a fund, an SOS – Save our Students – fund, which involved staff, students and the wider community contribution to that. It’s been positive to see.

And when one looks at places like Study Perth, the community organisations, the Indian community, Chinese, Malaysian community all rallied around to support and we’ve forged wonderful links with these community organisations as a consequence.”

Austrade’s recent survey of international students in Australia also provided positive feedback.

80% of the 7,500 students surveyed said they’d like to stay in Australia to complete study and work and are committed to doing that, and two-thirds still see their experience in Australia as a positive one, despite the impacts of the pandemic, revealed Austrade’s Helen Kronberger.

Diversifying offerings and keeping international students who are unable to travel to Australia in the foreseeable future engaged and committed has become a key focus for many institutions,.

Rupesh Singh, founder and Group CEO at Education Centre of Australia, said they moved 7,000 students from face-to-face to online learning and initial results were impressive, with three times increased participation in academic courses compared with last term, with satisfaction and interaction up.

Singh said they are now offering additional incentives such as free English language support courses and free subjects to students to try and maintain the interest.

“It’s understood they’ll be deferring if the borders aren’t open so we’re keeping students engaged and making sure they’re not losing time.

“We are offering free subjects including undergraduate, or postgraduate subjects which they can get credit for when they do come to Australia,” he said.

Singh said it is promising that students are still deferring rather than cancelling their study and that the clarity around post-study work visa arrangements has also helped increase student confidence.

“These continual rolling deferrals that could overload the whole system”

However, Mark Lucas from global student recruiter iae GLOBAL warned that while deferrals may be a positive sign now, it could lead to trouble in the future if not managed well.

“These continual rolling deferrals that could overload the whole system. The big issue then is you’re also getting new students who are graduating applying. The risk there is you move into competitive entry.”

Alternatively, he believes there’ll be a large hole another part of the market – students who come in via alternative channels, with up to 40% of international students coming through some sort of pre-program.

“It may have started with a kid coming in on a working holiday visa then doing English language or maybe a vocational program.

“That pool of students will not be there next year because we haven’t seen a student, a tourist or working holiday student basically since March,” he added.

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20 Responses to Australia hopeful that safety record and flex on visas will bear fruit

  1. Firstly, Austrade’s survey shouldve had much higher numbers as most international students usually want to end up in the country. So 80% is actually a low number acc to me.
    Secondly, Mr. Singh trying to keep students engaged is good, but not effective as most students will want to defer their admission instead of take online classes. Plus it does not say if the 7000 students were international students or domestic students.
    Students would ofcourse not cancel their admission as there is no incentive to cancel. They would rather defer it as there is no negative in defering.
    For the Universities to remain attractive, borders have to open especially when COVID is at an all time low.
    At least allow Australians Back.

  2. It’s seems like Majority of post study visa (485) Categories who got their Visas after 2019 October, has severely affected as their families stuck in Home contries. Specially being two different locations their relationships to spouse has now under seperated situations and mental pressure pushing them in to seperate life. Kids also having difficulty when one of their parents not with them. Don’t know how a Government can understand these issues.

  3. Online classes are no match to face to face studies. It is high time to accept this bitter fact that now we have to live with corona in years to come we should learn from countries like Canada and UK. Please be realistic and allow international students to rejoin there universitiesas soon as possible.

  4. They r just luring the students so that they won’t move to other countries. As all other countries are welcoming students. Defferal would directly impact on the students time and career. Every student is ready to stay quarantined as required.
    The Australian gov need to have better approach and plan to bring the student.

  5. Australia borders should open for international students as soon as possible. They are leaving behind the international students in great anxiety.

  6. This is not encouraging so much lope hole here. UK still accepting visa and taking student. Canada announced from 20th October they will take student. they stage 1 approval also who are unable to provide biometric. We have not gotten any slight signal about approval of visa. we are eagerly waiting for vfs open to give biometric. Government saying they are processing visa if they do not open vfs how they will give visa. We could defer only one semester after that we have to turned our back to Australia and go to canada or UK

  7. Dear Australian government it’s a kind request to you to please reopen international borders for students as it’s very difficult for students to study online as it does not have the same comfort level as the face to face have, and it will may result in bad results in exams . Moreover, it’s very defaunting challenge for students, so please reopen the borders as countries like Canada, UK as they are facing the same situation, but they are welcoming their students as well. So please think about the students also and request you to not to play with their future.

  8. Not sure how long students will fall prey to these false hopes the Australian government is giving to international students. Not long before everyone cancels their enrolment and goes to other better countries for higher studies. Australia shows no concern towards the problems international students are facing due to online studies and border restrictions. Nor are they planning to open borders any time soon to help students !

  9. Last thing Australia needs right now is to bring in students, we cannot be sure they won’t be bringing back the virus with them, if you look at the UK in Durham Uni alone over 1000 vivid infections, them with have unemployment at the highest it’s been for decades, we cannot throw our kids on the scrap heap in return for cheap student labour.

  10. Australian Govt., this is the worst approach so far as keeping international borders closed is no solution. You know what if COVID19 doesn’t go for next 5 years? Will you keep the borders closed for 5 years? I came to India in March to see my parents, and since then I’m stuck here. I’m an international student, I’ve exhausted my annual and sick leave sitting here. My job is in danger and I hold a valid visa, I should have all the rights to travel. But you know, if they don’t think about their own people, Australians, who are stuck outside, we cannot expect that the Aussie Govt. Would think about visa holders at all! It’s pretty selfish! I wonder if they will have international students opting to come to Aust in future. I think they would rather go to Canada or UK. Aust. Govt needs to learn a lesson!!

  11. I fully agree with all the comments here. As an international student being locked out of Australia and studying online for half a year, I can say that my education got significantly worse. Firstly, I am getting distracted every time. Secondly, I regularly get anxiety which negatively influences my studying. All of my friends studying in different countries in Europe have been able to return back and study offline as normal people and communicate with their peers. I have not even have a chance to meet other university students. I think most of the students agree to pay hotel quarantine fees, so I really don’t see a problem with allowing us back to Australia.

  12. You are breaking our hearts. You are shattering the hearts of so many international students. We are tired, we are unhappy and there is no bright light for us. You are not bringing a brighter light for us.

    There is so much you can do and so little we can do. There is only two ways for us students. Either we get our voices heard or we have to sacrifice our education and our dream, the Australian dream. I’m not ready to lose that dream yet, I will fight till the very end and so will many others.

    You, sir, have been postponing all the pilot programs. It is very understandable that Australia does not want a second wave, which we hope won’t be happening, but we’ll never know. This is COVID -19, something we can’t stop yet and it is very important to respect and take care of each other. But we students are asking you to understand and respect us.

    You have been postponing all the pilot programs and all the pilot programs have been dedicated to Asian countries. What about Europe? What about the whole world? What about us students in Europe and other continents who are willingly choosing to be up most of the night because of the time difference to attend your great Universities. What about all of us in one picture. You cannot hold European, African, American continents back anymore. We miss Australia, we miss living there and being a part of your great and highly sought education.

    We pay, we study, we adapt us to Australia but we are not receiving anything back. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t international students 1/4 of the Australian economy? Isn’t our education money a big sector in your financial market? How will you solve this?

    For us students, who have been daily searching for more news and getting our hopes down every time, here us out for one moment.

    * Bring international students back
    * Have the students corona tested before the departure, when arriving and after quarantine, a 3 way plan
    * Put us in hotels for 2 weeks and let our quarantine actually happen instead of postponing
    * Your economic will be more hurt if you keep waiting rather than spending money on hotels for the Students
    * Being us back!
    Give us the information and address and we will be there on our own cost and provide us with a place to stay so we can protect ourselves from corona and protect the wonderful people of Australia from the virus
    * Consider us, stop talking and take action, make this great, make Australia great
    To be also clear so that no one takes this as me hating on aisha countries because they get first spot, absolutely not, love and respect all the countries in Asia, I just think that the Australian gouvernent should focus on all the paying students form the whole world, we all are in this together.
    2dReply

  13. #openborders#letusbacktoAus
    I think every international student who wants to come to Australia is now thinking about other options like Canada and the UK due to this prolonged border closure. Australian Government should think about this make a move to bring back international students ASAP. No one is willing to wait for another semester.

  14. Remember one thing scottmorrison is expecting zero cases in aus which never gonna happen ever and instead he will drown the aus economy to the last penny.
    Uk canada has daily serious numbers of cases but they opened their border cause they understand the economic crises will kill the people if virus not and Australia govt is closing eyes and expecting to bring the cases to zero which is not possible. Untill vaccine comes they should start living with pandemic its all about survival

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