Monday, November 30, 2020

International students return to Australia following COVID-19 closures

For the first time since COVID-19 closed its borders to international students on March 20, international students are being welcomed back to campuses in Australia. The 70 students in the first cohort are from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, and Indoneisa. They arrived to cheers in the Darwin airport.

A pilot program sought to bring back 350 continuing international students to Canberra was delayed after a second wave of coronavirus struck Melbourne. Priority was instead given to repatriating Australians who had been stranded overseas.

Continued expansion of these programs to return international students will help to revitalize an important educational exchange that brings cultural diversity, intellectual talent, and finances to universities. Before COVID-19, approximately 40% of international students in Australia came from mainland China and brought with them $10 billion Australian dollars per year. Yu Tao, a lecturer at the University Western Australia, explained in The Conversation:

It’s essential to recruit and retain international students to sustain and develop Australian higher education. The loss of international student fee revenue has prompted universities to make large job cuts. Many are expected to downsize. Some might collapse.

Similar dynamics exist in other western countries, including the United States. Increasingly international students are being shut out or made to feel unwelcome for reasons varying from public health, to intellectual property, to restrictionist immigration policies. Others are being educated remotely during the pandemic, with varying levels of effectiveness. Universities worldwide are watching for the impacts of these ddevelopments on future enrollment.


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