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Dramatic drop in international student visa applications from India as Australia’s borders stay shut

Applications for Australia Awards Scholarships will open from next week Source: Getty Images/urbazon

Australia has recorded a 48 per cent dip in offshore student visa applications from India, the second-largest source of students, second only to China. This decline threatens the $6.6 billion-stream of revenue that universities earn from Indian students.

The latest numbers from the Department of Home Affairs reveal that students from India are abandoning Australian universities in droves due to their inability to enter the country amidst Australia’s longstanding border restrictions.

Data indicates that only 10,549 applications were lodged in the second half of 2020, which is a decline of 48.4 per cent in new student visa applications as compared to the same period in 2019.


  • Australia records a 48 per cent dip in offshore student visa applications from India
  • Data indicates that only 10,549 applications were lodged in the second half of 2020
  • 'Numbers will continue to drop until Australia reopens its international borders,' says Mr Ravi Lochan Singh

'Dip is significant but expected'

Ravi Lochan Singh, Director of Global Reach which represents Australian universities in South Asia, said the drop in the numbers is “significant but expected,” given that there is still no national policy or timeline for the return of international students.

“The numbers will continue to drop until Australia reopens its international borders,” he said.

“The impact of this drop on the Australian education sector would be long-term. I think it will only be in 2023, possibly, when student numbers can be expected to return to the pre-pandemic level.”

International students
Navjot Kaur
Supplied by Ms Kaur

Nursing student Navjot Kaur Gill, who travelled to India in March last year to attend a cousin’s wedding, has been anxiously waiting to return to Melbourne's campus life.

The 22-year-old, who is only months away from completing her degree, said she prefers to continue her studies upon returning to Australia, whenever that happens.

“I did not pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in university fees to study on a laptop. While I understand that some degrees can easily be completed online, nursing certainly is not one of them,” Ms Gill said.

“I’d request the Australian Government to exempt international students from the current border ban so that those who are already enrolled in Australian educational institutions can finish their studies,” she added.

'Indian students are far less willing to study online offshore'

New Delhi-based education consultant Gauravdeep Bumra, who has been working in the education sector for the past decade, said Indian students are far less willing to study online offshore unlike Chinese students.

“Most Indian students choose to study abroad, often at the cost of thousands of dollars, because they have a long-term goal of getting permanent residency, be it in Australia, Canada or the UK. As a result, most students stuck offshore have deferred their studies instead of choosing to complete their degrees online,” he explained.

Mr Bumra added that while most current students are willing to return once borders reopen, a lack of uniformed national strategy for international students is dissuading new students from enrolling in Australian universities.

“Billions of dollars’ worth of revenue is at stake because the Australian federal government is not willing to commit to a timeline for the return of Indian students. The day they open their borders, the student intake numbers will uptick, but it would take a few years to return to previous levels,” he added.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge says he has been shocked by the number of people coming forward with allegations of sexual assault within Australian schools.
Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge

When will Australia's borders open to international students?

Responding to calls for a national strategy to fly back international students, Education Minister Alan Tudge reaffirmed that bringing stranded Australians home remains the government’s top priority.

"Our priority has to be and remains to get the Australians back. When it's safe to do so of course we will have international students come back,” he told Sky News on Thursday.

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