Chinese students make up more than half of overseas university enrollments despite border closures
The auditor’s report also showed that there had been a 6.1% reduction in enrollment at NSW universities despite an increase in income across the board. Universities also received a $442 million increase in government grants starting in 2020.
The chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, Phil Honeywood, said he expected the proportion of Indian and Nepalese students to increase significantly this year after many arrived in the country during the opening of the borders.
He said Chinese students continued to rely on online learning due to border closures, with more than 50% studying abroad.
“We expect Chinese students to return in substantial numbers to face-to-face instruction early in the first half of 2023,” Honeywood said.
ANU higher education expert Prof Andrew Norton said it was unclear how some universities had managed to increase the number of Chinese international students during COVID-19, but suggested they could offer incentives.
“It seems counter-intuitive and the actualization is the only thing I can think of that might have been of interest to some people,” he said. “But even then, coming to another country is one of the main benefits of having an international education and so doing it online is a poor substitute.”
Norton said the reliance on overseas-based international students has changed the product offered by universities.
“Sydney [University] has been one of the universities that focuses primarily on providing on-campus education, and so when a significant minority of their students just aren’t there, it makes a difference for the people who are there too because academics try to do two different versions of the course – one online, one non-online.
“For me, it’s part of the downward spiral of on-campus education, because if a university has to offer all these services online, domestic students are going to use them as well.”
A University of Sydney spokeswoman said the institution was able to increase the number of Chinese students thanks to its strong international reputation.
“We moved quickly and successfully to online learning and provided targeted support to our students abroad – and also took a personal approach to communicating with our prospective students, including through activities between peers, increased access to webinars and relevant content and large-scale phone campaigns,” she said.
“We are not immune to the challenges facing the higher education sector, but are confident in our ability to continue to adapt and innovate to ensure that we can support our core mission: an education and world-class research.
“We are delighted that so many of our international students can now join us in person, but we know that some challenges remain, particularly for Chinese students due to border closures and limited flights out of the country. “
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