Why Australia is still a good choice for international students
I must be honest, 2020 was not a great year for many international students in Australia. It wasn’t an easy year for students anywhere.
The new year began with bush fires and swiftly moved to the news of the global pandemic. On the 20th of March, Australia took swift action and borders were shut to all non-citizens and non-residents. In hindsight that action saved lives, but it was tough medicine. Some international students found themselves studying online in their student accommodation, others couldn’t get into the country and had to join Zoom lectures from home.
We all did our best and students and teachers were amazing. They supported one another, found new ways to engage online and completed their assessments. Astonishingly student satisfaction rates held firm or even went up as they appreciated the tireless work of their teachers to give them the very best possible education in the circumstances.
The result is many students will progress in their education with a tremendous lesson in resilience, but it wasn’t the easy-going Australian welcome we wanted our students to experience.
In some cases, the pandemic was very tough, especially for those international students who relied on the usually plentiful part-time jobs which disappeared overnight for Australians and overseas visitors alike. This was a new experience for everyone, and the challenges were huge. Mass repatriations were organised by Air India and 13,000 international students are still waiting for a change in travel restrictions. Likewise, many Australian nationals are still waiting to return home. Given these circumstances, it was no surprise international student recruitment significantly decreased.
Yet in 2021, although restrictions remain for now, there are encouraging signs leading to optimism – and hope that international students may soon make plans to study in Australia. The country has fared well in how it has handled the pandemic, especially compared to the other large study destinations of the UK, America, and Canada.
The vaccine rollout is well underway, and everyone is eager to get back to the new normal, especially students and universities. States, business, universities and educational bodies are all making the case for a truly positive welcome.
Nobody is sure exactly when borders will reopen, but they will, and international students will be a priority when they do. As the Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Gitesh Sarma, noted this week:
“Indians are very greatly valued as international students in this country. Whenever we engage with the educational authorities here, they try to always make things as comfortable for our students as possible. They all realise that ultimately if they get international students to come here with the confidence that they will be looked after, then the universities have long-term prospects taken care of. So Indian students are very, very important.”
And the positive long-term reasons for choosing to study in Australia all remain. Australia is a beautiful, vast, diverse and exciting country in which to study. 30% of Australians are born overseas leading to a society which is home to nationalities and cultures from all over the world. Our higher education remains globally respected and Australian institutions rank in the world’s top 100 year after year. Once international students have completed degrees, they are also eligible to stay and work in Australia.
Teaching is also of a high standard. International students know their education must comply with strict national accreditation measures. International student support centres also offer practical advice and support on issues like legal rights, job skills and opportunities to meet and socialise with other local and international students, because this is a country well-used to international students and their questions.
Australian cities are ranked as some of the most liveable in the world and ours is a technologically advanced country with a strong, globally competitive economy. Australia is a great place to begin adult life and to qualify for a future career.
For now, international students are still temporarily online, but it won’t be for long. And when the travel restrictions do lift, as they surely will, I have every confidence Australia will remain a great choice for an excellent education for talented young people from across the world.
Alex Chevrolle is Managing Director (Australia and New Zealand) for Study Group.
Study Group is the leading provider in international pathway programmes.