According to local media reports, the collapse of international student fee income, rental of on-campus accommodation and commercial revenues will cost the universities €374m in the 2020 and 2021 financial years.
“We have to expect that this year numbers will be substantially down and that may last for a couple of years”
IUA has estimated that the loss in fee income from international students alone will be €181m.
As part of a bid to drive the recovery of the sector, €10m is being sought for an Education in Ireland promotion campaign and €10m to institutions for their individual recruitment campaigns.
A €20m international student recruitment fund has been sought to drive the recovery, with €10m to go to an ‘Education in Ireland’ promotion campaign and the remaining €10m to universities and other third-level colleges for their individual recruitment campaigns.
Speaking on RTE Radio, Jim Miley, director-general of the IUA said the “international student business” is a very substantial export earner for Ireland, bringing in around half a billion euro a year between fees and spending and living expenses.
“The big markets are China, India and the US and the EU through the Erasmus program, and while we hope that we can maintain as many of those students as possible, I think realistically, given the travel restrictions, we have to expect that this year numbers will be substantially down – and that may last for a couple of years,” he said.
“So we’ve estimated that could be of the order of a drop of €180 million in the seven universities between this year and next.”
Miley added that the sector hopes to hold on to international students already studying in the country, but the big challenge is bringing in first-year students.
“We would be expecting 2,500 to 3,000 first-year international students… but it may be very difficult to get the international students in – and getting them in ‘online’ [because] a huge part of the international student experience is the culture.”
In 2019, the number of international students studying in Irish universities reached 14,412.
The IUA has recently launched its publication ‘Irish Universities Help Fight The Covid-19 Pandemic’ which details how the sector is contributing to the national emergency response as the pandemic developed.