Almost 1 million foreign students attend Australian educational institutions. Of that 28% are from China according to the Dept of Education.
New commencements are at half a million. These are not small numbers. We are already seeing universities start to fret over the economic impacts.
The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that in 2017–18, international education was worth $32.4 billion to the Australian economy, up from $18.9 billion in 2008–09.
In fees alone, foreign students have forked over $7.4bn in the 2017/18 year from $2.9bn in 2008/09.
As a % of total university fees, foreign students now represent over 23% from 15.5% in 2008/09.
By university, we can see where foreign students are most concentrated. Victoria holds 5 of the top 10 destinations for foreign students.
By number, Victorian universities hold the top 3 places for absolute foreign student numbers, and 31% of the national total. NSW has 25% of all foreign students inside Australia.
Things will undoubtedly settle down. It is unlikely all of these students will pull the plug and not turn up at Australian universities when Coronavirus issues eventually come under control. As far as attrition rates go in Australia, local kids are far more likely to drop out than overseas students.
We are already seeing some universities announce they are tightening the purse strings until the situation normalises.
An interesting side topic is a fall-off in permanent residency visas offered by the Dept of Home Affairs to foreign students that graduate in Australian universities. The decadal low numbers don’t seem to have affected foreign student interest.
Graduate visas have picked up sharply. It will be fascinating to see the post-Coronavirus trends of visas from the DHA.
Ultimately, Australian schools have been living high off the hog. While the trend of international students has been robust, have any of these schools conducted proper contingency planning if a global recession, pandemic or shock was to ensue?
After 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth, something suggests that most universities have not seriously considered what might happen if the well dried up. Sadly, when such an action plan should have been in place, we will probably see knee jerk cost-cutting in all the wrong places. So much for the educators preparing their customers for the future…