Australia has recently had a cut in its funding for universities for 2021–2022. According to Josh Frydenberg, the country’s federal treasurer, more than $19 billion were allocated for institutions. In a recent announcement, the government stopped emergency research funding in October. The budget cuts greatly affected the higher education sector by $2 billion.
International education providers will be most affected since their $53 million allotment is included in the budget cut. In addition to the declining numbers of international student enrollment, it does not help that most universities lack support from the government. Assuming that border controls will likely persist until mid-2022, universities will be wading in deep waters without enough funding to keep them afloat. As early as now, HEI heads are calling on the government to come up with a solid plan to slowly allow the entry of international students, mainly those coming from low-risk countries.
On a lighter note, pilot flights scheduled for some international students in the latter part of 2021 may be a good starting point. This still fits the proposed budget. “These pilots will provide a useful proof of concept for a larger scale return of international students,” said Catriona Jackson, Universities Australia’s Chief Executive.
However, onshore applications are in the spotlight in Australia’s 2021–2022 Migration Program, which comprises the following streams such as skill, family, special eligibility and child. The program’s cap is at 160,000, which does not look promising for international students. If the focus during this pandemic does not include foreign applicants, the country is not getting the best talents, said Seema Chauhan, a registered migration agent.
Australia’s closed borders give more doubts to international students wanting to return and continue their postgraduate studies. At present, the country’s borders are shut down and only those with exemptions can enter. Foreign students stuck outside Australia cannot enter and proceed with their programs. Those who are locked in Australia struggle to make ends meet due to financial concerns as well as the effects of the budget cuts.
International students hope that the government becomes considerate as they are most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the chair of Australia-India Business Council’s Make in India Chapter, Vish Viswanathan, “Australia needs to look at a different model or identify immediate strategies to attract international students and, importantly, utilize their skills for the benefit of the Australian economy.”
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