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International students turn away from Australia amid uncertainty over border reopening

Students at a UNSW Campus Source: AAP

Instead of being permitted to enter the country from December 1st, international students are staying put until least the 15th, prompting them to look elsewhere.

It's another blow for international students planning to study abroad and Australian Universities who rely heavily on their income. The federal government is pressing pause on the reopening of Australia's borders to international skilled and student cohorts by another two weeks.

The decision came in the wake of the World Health Organisation's global alert about the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.

Data from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment earlier this year, shows universities across Australia experienced a steep decline in the number of enrolments and course commencements in 2021.

Universities Australia's chief executive Catriona Jackson says it's a concern.

"Look the number that really worries me is the 40 per cent decline in commencements. So that's not student's already in the system, thatch students who would be starting, so first year, first in students. Obviously, that’s very much a product of us having closed borders and students deferring their studies to another year." 

Australia was once the third-most-popular education destination in the world prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the education sector contributing $37.6 billion dollars to the economy.

After nearly two years of border closures, the sector’s revenue has dropped to $26.7 billion.

Catriona Jackson says that other places such as the US, the UK and Canada are taking advantage of Australia’s hard-line border policies.

"Look I think the government is aware of the fact that international education is very competitive and that competing nations like the US, the UK and Canada are taking advantage of this moment in time. Their borders are not shut. We know that numbers in the UK have gone up. It’s impossible for us to tell whether that’s directly a drain from Australia, but we’re certainly aware and alert to it. We are doing everything we can to make sure government right across the board is aware and alert to it, and I think they are. And it’s certainly a matter Australia as a nation needs to address."

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SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://www.sbs.com.au/language/coronavirus

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