The Crisis in the Overseas Student Industry: How should Government respond?

The Australian Population Research Insitute, Research Report, June 2020.


Bob Birrell was Reader in Sociology and head of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University until 2017. He was the joint-editor of the demographic journal People and Place over the years 1993 to 2010. He is currently the head of the demographic think tank, The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI).

Katharine Betts is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Sociology at Swinburne University of Technology.

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2 Responses to The Crisis in the Overseas Student Industry: How should Government respond?

  1. Avatar Anthony Pun says:

    An informative article by Birrell & Betts on history & financial dependence of Go8 & non-Go8 universities on overseas higher education enrolment , as amplified by covid-19 pandemic.
    DHA Stats: Country of Citizenship (In Australia) (Outside Australia) and (%Outside Australia) for higher education visa holders as of 20 May 2020.
    China 109,673 –68,757 (62.7%) ; India 108,737-6,529 (6.1%); 263 Nepal 55,616-1,674 (3%); Vietnam 21,726-2,979 (13.7%); Brazil 19,087-2,888 (15.1%); Indonesia 16,233-2,425 (14.9%); Malaysia 18,005-2,263 (12.6%); Colombia 17,729-1,961 (11/1%); Philippines 17,197-1,085 (6.3%) and South Korea 14,876-3,180 (21.4%).

    Recovery to pre-covid-19 enrolment is hampered by travel bans, geopolitical posturing of Australian FM on coronavirus inquiry, racism warning by Chinese authorities for students & tourist to Australia, unlikelihood of Indian/SE Asian students filling the Chinese gap due to low opportunities of casual employment post-covid-19.

    Please note the high level (62.7%) of Chinese visa holders outside Australia. Their absence of 6 months will cost a loss of revenue to Australia to the tune of 68,757 x $25,000 = $1.7 billion just on living expenses, Other overseas students absent from Australia is 24,984 and is equivalent to only 36% of the Chinese students offshore and calculated loss of revenue to Australia is $624 million for 6 months living expenses (fees not included)

    The picture is grim and compounded by geopolitical standoff, recovery will be slow and painful.

  2. Avatar Kien Choong says:

    If the Australian government wants universities to take more domestic students, they ought to fund the cost of doing so. It doesn’t seem right (nor “efficient”) to rely on overseas students to cross-subsidise domestic students.

    That said, I realise that a large part of the cost of operating a university is common to both overseas and domestic students. That cost needs to be allocated (somehow) between overseas and domestic students.

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