When Australia’s borders were opened in November 2021 after being closed for over two years, international students started to come back, slowly at first but, if industry sources are correct, that trickle could become an avalanche by 2023.
A report titled Emerging Futures by global education specialist IDP, based on research conducted in August this year, confirms that international students are returning to Australia, with the country bouncing back to become the world’s second most popular higher education study destination.
In a presentation to the Australian International Education Conference ‘Beyond Borders’ conference in the Gold Coast last week (18-21 October), IDP Connect Client Director Andrew Wharton said: “We all felt the absence in our communities when border closures restricted the travel of international students to our shores, and it is encouraging to see the perceptions of Australia improve now our borders are open.
“As we welcome students back, [we need] to listen to what students want, which is clear career pathways and job opportunities during their studies, and to make sure their expectations are met when they arrive.”
Australian-listed IDP is a leading global education services company, operating in more than 50 countries.
The survey, which collates the views of more than 11,000 prospective students, applicants and current students, demonstrated that Australia’s popularity as a first-choice study destination has climbed five percentage points since March 2022.
Canada remains the top destination, with 27% of respondents selecting this as their first choice.
Australia is particularly popular among students from Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Vietnam, but trails other destinations when it comes to students from China and India, the two largest markets. Sixty-two percent of the respondents in the IDP survey said that Australia was their first choice because it was a safe country for international students.
When the pandemic hit Australia in early 2020, and the country became one of the first to close its international borders, the export earnings from international students was about AU$40 billion (US$25 billion) and higher education was among the top three export earners, along with minerals and tourism.
International students, particularly from Asia, were also widely employed as part-timers in the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors, which are now facing a serious labour shortage.