Australia’s International Students Unwilling to Study Remotely

Monday, 3 May 2021

Australia’s International Students Unwilling to Study Remotely

A survey of over 6,000 prospective international students, conducted by student recruitment agency IDP, has found that only 7% of participants who want to study at Australian universities are unwilling to do so on a purely remote basis.

Economic fallout from the drop in international student enrolment could reach $20bn next year with student advocates stating there is “no plan” to bring students back onshore. It seems likely, therefore, that international students may not return to Australia until 2022.

Under border restrictions, overseas students enrolled at Australian institutions cannot enter the country, forcing many to study remotely from their home countries.

In response to these difficult circumstances, the University of Queensland, the University of Adelaide, and the University of Newcastle have offered discounts of up to 20% to keep international students enrolled. In Queensland’s case, a record number of international students enrolled in 2021.

However, with chances of a return to campus this year looking slim, the survey of 6,000 international students revealed participants set on Australia were growing less willing to wait as the UK and Canada were allowing students in more openly.

Only 7% said they would continue with their degree if remote study continued while 38% were happy to study online initially so long as they gradually transitioned to face-to-face teaching. 51% of students looking to study in Canada were happy with this approach, as were 50% of prospective UK students.

International students keen on studying in Australia seem more likely to defer enrolment until a return to campus is possible with 43% of students stating they would do so. This is considerably higher than the 24% for Canada and 27% for the UK.

Globally, 77% of students said they “expected” to return to on-campus teaching by the end of this year. 

Throughout 2020, pilot programs were proposed by the Australian government to bring back small numbers of international students. There was however, no plan to return en masse.

Errol Phuah, the national president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations says: “What has been greatly frustrating is there has been no leadership for the most part… Everyone is blaming eachother”

Continuing, Phuah says “If you look at those data on the vaccine rollout, it is very clear. Especially the US, the UK and Canada… These are our competing countries, and they are smashing us.”

One option for Australia, according to Mr Phuah, could be to introduce quarantine centres outside of major cities.

Quarantine in Singapore could also be a viable option, while Australia could work with other countries to ensure students were vaccinated before arrival.

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