International students struggling in wake of pandemic


The higher education sector will take a massive hit from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on international students. Photo: Phil Lees (CC BY-SA 2.0)

ABS figures show that for every dollar universities collect in tuition fees from international students, another two dollars is invested in the Australian economy, which will see a wipe-out of between thirty and sixty billion dollars in the next three years because of the impact of coronavirus on the higher education sector. Paweenuch Nirajrop breaks down the federal government’s advice to overseas students.

There are more than five hundred thousand international students in Australia struggling in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Some are fighting to keep their accommodation, because they are not able to pay the rent.

They also can’t access the federal government’s jobseeker payments.

This situation makes it harder for them to deal with the coronavirus pandemic because they aren’t eligible for a financial safety net like Australian citizens and residents.

There has been no announcement from the federal government about any support that is directed towards international students so far.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken to the international students who can’t support themselves under these circumstances.

“People should know though in particular for students…All students who come to Australia in their first year have to give a warranty that they are able to support themselves for the first 12 months of their study,” he said.

“That is a requirement of their visa when they come for that first year, and so that is not an unreasonable expectation of the government, that students would be able to fulfil the commitment that they gave.

Now, these visas, and those who are in Australia, under various visa arrangements, they’re obviously not held here compulsorily, if they are not in a position to support themselves, then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries.”

International students have refuted the Prime Minister’s claims, telling local media such as SBS that student visa requirements require them to provide a guarantee that they will not default on tuition fees.

Mr Morrison also addressed visitors who had come to Australia, saying that this was not a good time to travel here.

The Prime Minister suggested they make their way home for their own safety to ensure that they will receive adequate support from their governments, because at this time, he said, the government needs to focus on Australian citizens first.

“We still have quite a number of people here on visitor visas…As much as it is lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this if you’re a visitor in this country, it is time, as it has been now for some while – and I know many visitors have – to make your way home and to ensure that you can receive the supports that are available … in your home countries,” he said.

As for backpackers who are specialized in medical skills, the Prime Minister says they are more than welcome here, and that there would be opportunities to those who are able to help Australia during this crisis to come to this country.