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Australian border closures blamed for $2.7bn ELICOS related loss

Border closures related to the pandemic in Australia will see the country’s economy AU$2.7 billion worse off due to losses in income that would usually be generated by the ELICOS sector, according to new analysis.

BONARD estimated that in August 2021, 19% of ELICOS colleges were hibernating or inactive, the report detailed. Photo: pexels

NSW ELICOS saw a fall of 57% to $395 million in 2020, from $924m in 2019

English Australia’s Economic Impact research – prepared by Bonard – found that border closures resulted in a $1.2bn loss for the English language teaching sector in 2020, while the projected losses for future pathways in 2021 is around $1.5bn. The longer borders are closed, the larger the predicted losses for the sector will be, it warned.

“This new analysis clearly demonstrates how hard the sector was hit by the pandemic in 2020 and highlights the interconnectedness of English language study in Australia to all other sectors,” Brett Blacker, English Australia CEO explained.

“The impact based on the first half of 2021 is already far worse”

“The scale of the 2020 economic loss for the ELICOS sector from international border closures is distressing but the impact based on the first half of 2021 is already far worse.”

New South Wales and Victoria saw the biggest declines in 2020, but the states retained their proportion of the country’s ELICOS sector. NSW ELICOS saw a fall of 57% to $395 million from $924m in 2019, while Victoria declined by 45% to $348.5m from $631m.

An overall drop of 52% across the country in 2020 saw income fall to $1.12bn from $2.35bn in 2019.

However, the future loss in tuition fees and additional costs revenue tied to students not being able to progress to their desired sector will be higher than the drop in the ELICOS sector’s direct contribution in 2020, the report found.

Higher education is set to lose out on $962m, VET $378m, non-award $86m and schools $57m, researchers calculated.

“We now fully understand the extent to which border closures have affected the English language teaching sector and the flow-on effects on the broader Australia based on this study,” Blacker added.

Analysis of Department of Education, Skills and Employment student visa data for June 2021 found that ELICOS sector commencements were down 26,729 – over 7,000 more than the next biggest loss, which was among higher education commencements falling by 19,407.

These declines were off the back of a 24% decline in June 2020 and also exclude non-student visa holders, who typically make up around 30% of the ELICOS cohort at any one time, English Australia added.

The document also shows that by Q4 2020, the proportion of ELICOS students off-shore had risen to 50%, from some 1% at the start of the year.

“Despite transitioning to online study, the sector is still seeing declining numbers,” Blacker continued.

“The Federal Governments Innovation Fund is helping the shift to online for private ELICOS colleges, but far more is needed to ensure the sector survives and to avoid far greater economic impact on international education and the Australian economy which is predicted if nothing is done.”

Fee relief extension and the expansion of assistance programs such as the Innovation Fund will allow the sector to operate, innovate and develop new markets, which will in turn support the recovery for all international education sectors, English Australia concluded.

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