International student numbers in Australia could fall by half by mid-2021 if borders remain closed

Australia’s foreign enrolment is projected to drop to 50% of current numbers in 2021 if borders remain closed to international arrivals, according to a new report from the Mitchell Institute, an education think tank at Victoria University.

In 2019, more than 758,000 visa-holding international students were studying in Australia. This year, there are about 210,000 fewer students due to COVID-19-related restrictions.

student visa applications in australia
Student visa applications lodged outside of Australia, 2019 and year-to-date August 2020. Source: Department of Home Affairs, The Age

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just announced that borders will remain closed to international students for the foreseeable future. Because thousands of Australians travelling back to the country will have to quarantine, the Prime Minister says that quarantine facilities would be stretched beyond capacity if international students were allowed to fly in as well.

Department of Home Affairs data show an 80–90% decrease in study visa applications for Australia this year. The drastic fall in applications spells trouble for enrolment trends in 2021 because it represents a reduction in forward demand for Australian education when borders do reopen.

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