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Tens of thousands of international students return to Australia

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • More than 56,000 international students have returned as of 30 January
  • Another 50,000 student visa applications have been filed
  • There is a new website designed for agents referring students to Australia

International students are flocking back to Australia: more than 56,000 have arrived since November 2021 – and 7,000 of those arrived between 23 January and 30 January 2022 alone. In addition, pent-up demand among foreign students to study in Australia appears to be very strong: since late 2021, 50,000 student visa applications have been filed.

These robust numbers are in part due to the government’s announcement last month that international students would have their visa application fees refunded if they arrived between 19 January 2022 and 22 March 2022.

“Visa grants to international students are flowing as a result of the Minister directing the Department to allocate additional resources to processing the visas of International Students,” adds a recent statement from the Department of Home Affairs.

Speaking with ABC News, Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson called the numbers “promising” but noted that there are still thousands more students waiting to be able to study in the country:

“Before COVID, there were about 400,000 international students, since COVID it’s been about 300,000. So we’ve got some numbers to make up.”

In a related development, the government has just announced that Australia’s borders will open up to all fully vaccinated travellers as of 21 February 2022.

Sector needs rebuilding

The hope is for a rapid recovery for the international educator sector, which in 2019 contributed over AUS$40 billion to the wider economy – twice as much as in 2015. The industry, from universities to schools to ELICOS providers, has been severely impacted by Australia’s border closure through 2020 and 2021, which lasted much longer than was the case in most other leading destinations around the world. The Australia Institute has reported that by September 2021, one-fifth of university workers (approximately 40,000 people) – had lost their jobs in the pandemic.

Looking for a long-term approach

Even as the government is rolling out incentives to hasten the return of international students, experts warn that an extended “welcome mat” will be needed in the long term. Writing in The Conversation, Nancy Arthur, Dean of Research, UniSA Business, University of South Australia

“As international students return to Australia, the welcome mat needs to stay out longer. It matters how we support them, not only upon arrival, but throughout their academic programmes and as they prepare for their future employment ….The longer-term view requires strategy for supporting them as students, employees and future associates, within and beyond Australia’s borders.”

New agent website

Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is running a campaign to attract more international students; its new “Welcome” video appears below. In addition, Study Australia has a new Partner Hub website to provide additional resources and updates for agents.

For additional background, please see:

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