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Will a lack of clear timeline for international students’ mass return hurt Australia?

Australia border update
There’s no clear Australia border update that greenlights a mass return for students. Source: William West/AFP

International students locked out of Australia want a clear timeline for their return, but the country’s disjointed reopening plans is doing little to strengthen some students’ resolve to continue studying in the country. To date, there’s no clear Australia border update that greenlights a mass return for students. 

The Australian government has endorsed International Student Arrival Plans for New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. While these plans serve as green shoots of hope for more students to gradually return, some are already considering transferring elsewhere. 

According to ABC News, Zarana Patel, who came to Australia from India as an international student in 2014 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting three years ago, said she has been struggling to find a professional job due to her visa status and lack of work experience.

“International students are making efforts, we have gained knowledge and skills [from university] and still you are being rejected just based on you are not a permanent resident or citizen here,” she told The Business.

“Whatever I have to do to fulfil all the requirements, I have done that, but as the government is making strict rules regarding permanent residency here, I don’t see any hope.” The 26-year-old said she didn’t feel appreciated in Australia and is moving to Canada instead to further her study and for a better future.

Several other reports suggest international students are considering transferring to other universities within Australia or abroad.

Australia border update

Could a lack of clear Australia border update translate to an exodus of international students? Source: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP

Australia border update: What we know

Social media listening suggests international students are growing impatient with the lack of a clear timeline regarding Australia border update. International students have taken their frustrations to Twitter and voicing their frustrations under the hashtags #LetUsBackTAus and #InternationalStudentsAustralia.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson told The Business that other countries have “responded very intelligently” to the pandemic by loosing up some of their work rights criteria while allowing international students to return. She said if Australia doesn’t keep up, it’ll be challenging for the country to maintain their position as a leading study abroad destination.

A lack of Australia border updates have affected student sentiments about the country’s appeal as a study abroad destination. Back in October, an IDP Connect survey found that student sentiments on Canada as a study abroad destination was strong. More than one-third of students (39%) reported that Canada was their first choice, followed by the US and UK (both 17%) and Australia at 16%. 

“With the majority (71%) of respondents intending to commence study in 2022, there is a need for Australia to act quickly and provide a plan to get international students back for on-campus learning as it prepares for a rebound,” said IDP Connect CEO Simon Emmett.

Separately, in May, a Navitas Agent Perception Research survey showed that more than half (63%) of agents rated Canada as “very attractive,” ahead of the UK and Australia at 51% and 49% respectively, according to Navitas Agent Perception Research. The survey captures the opinions of agents on the impact of COVID-19 on international education. 

More recently, IDP Connect’s New Horizons research shows international students consider migration incentives and employment opportunities when choosing where, what and how to study.