Thursday 20 February 2020
A third of international students with private tertiary education providers have cancelled or postponed their enrolments in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, exposing the immediate financial impact of travel restrictions on the education sector.
Ten per cent of international students with independent providers have cancelled their enrolments and 24 per cent have postponed, according to a survey of providers by industry body the Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia, which has members across the higher education and vocational education and training sectors.
"The sector is facing some real challenges right now as providers experience a significant decrease in student numbers. Should the travel restrictions on Chinese students endure, the impact on the mid-year intake will be catastrophic for many providers," ITECA chief executive Troy Williams said.
Mr Williams welcomed initiatives, supported by government regulators, to provide courses online but warned this wasn't feasible for all areas.
"Online delivery is great for some disciplines, but for many courses that have a practical hands-on component, online training isn’t an option. From aviation, construction, commercial cookery to hospitality, it’s simply not possible to provide training and assessment online," he said.
The data is based on survey responses from more than 100 mostly large and medium-sized providers among ITECA's 500 members.
There are currently up to 140,000 international students enrolled with independent vocational education and training providers and tens of thousands more with independent higher education providers.
The Australian government has extended a travel ban for all non-Australian residents travelling from China, a measure that has angered the Chinese government and rocked Australia's higher education sector, which has become increasingly reliant on Chinese international students.
International education is worth $38 billion a year to the Australian economy, with more than 950,000 foreign students enrolled at the end of last year. Almost a third of these students are from China.
The government has not approved any new Chinese student visas since the start of the travel ban and over 100,000 students enrolled at Australian institutions have been blocked from entering the country.
Universities, which stand to lose billions from the restrictions on Chinese students, unsuccessfully lobbied the government to exempt international students from the travel ban.
The figures from the private tertiary education providers build on a recent survey of international students enrolled in Australia but stuck in China, which found 32 per cent would look to enrol in another country if they could not start first semester in Australia.
Among the respondents to the survey by Education Consultants Association of Australia, 58 per cent elected Britain as their preferred alternative while 31 per cent picked Canada and six per cent picked the United States.