Australia

Australia could lose a third of Chinese international students if travel ban continues, survey finds

Students enter the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Source: AAP

Australia's two major competitors in the higher education industry - the UK and Canada - do not have travel bans in place.

Nearly a third of Australia's international students stuck in China because of the Federal Government's coronavirus travel ban are considering study in another country, a survey has found.

The survey, conducted by the Education Consultants Association of Australia, comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison extended the ban on Chinese visitors for another week.

It found 32 per cent of more than 16,000 students surveyed said they would enrol in another country if they could not be in Australia for the first semester of 2020.

Asked about their preferred "redirection destinations", 58 per cent of students chose the UK, 31 per cent chose Canada and six per cent chose the US.

The survey was conducted from 5 February to 9 February via Chinese social media platform, WeChat, with 73 per cent of students currently studying in Australia and 26 per cent new students.

There are about 100,000 Chinese students who were planning to study at Australian universities stuck in their home country, with classes set to start later this month.

Thousands of international students have been caught up in the travel ban.
Thousands of international students have been caught up in the travel ban.
AAP

Group of Eight (Go8) chief executive Vicki Thomson told SBS News the survey was "a real signal of concern  ... that these students will go elsewhere".

More than 105,000 international students from China attend the eight universities in the group. 

Ms Thomson noted that Australia's two major competitors in the higher education industry - the UK and Canada - did not have travel bans in place.

"This could be a lost opportunity," she said.

She said her message to students affected by the ban was to "hang in there and stay with us".

Ms Thomson said losing the students will also have a flow-on effect to other industries such as the retail and hospitality sector. 

She said her organisation was in touch with the government on a daily basis and understood it was working "in the best interests of Australians".

An earlier analysis from Standard & Poor's said universities could lose $3 billion in fees alone if Chinese students stayed away.   

On Friday, the University of Canberra asked Chinese students temporarily excluded from travelling to Australia to defer their studies.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Geoff Crisp said the advice to defer studies was to ensure students have the "best possible learning experience and academic outcomes".

"Due to complications from the Chinese firewall, access to study materials and the multiple variations of individual student's study plans, we would rather ensure our students continue to receive the high-quality face-to-face experience offered here at UC," Professor Crisp said in a statement.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has attempted to calm concerns after the Chinese embassy in Australia lashed the government's "extreme" decision.

"Of course we want to work very closely with the Chinese government but our responsibility is to keep Australians safe," Mr Dutton told the Nine Network on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison make the announcement on Thursday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison make the announcement on Thursday.
AAP

Announcing the extension on Thursday, Mr Morrison said the government was working closely with schools and universities.

"We are taking a cautious approach ... this is why we are on a weekly rotation in the review of this," he said.

We are taking a cautious approach

Scott Morrison

"We are looking at all options that are available to us to mitigate the impact where possible."

There are now more than 60,000 confirmed cases of the virus, most of them in the province of Hubei where it was first detected, and 1,489 people have died.

Of the 15 cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.

Additional reporting: AAP

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