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The fact that international students represent a big source of income for Universities in Australia and New Zealand is certainly known: in 2019, the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed that international education contributed AU$37.6 billion (App. EUR 22 billion) to the Australian economy. Australia’s international education sector is valued at AU$40 billion (App. EUR 24 billion) and is one of the country’s top export categories (more information here)
The same goes for New Zealand for which the economic impact of the international student sector is estimated at NZD$5 billion (App. EUR 2.8 billion). The numbers are available here.
Both countries have begun relaxing COVID-19 restrictions due to an encouraging curbing of the crisis. They are even discussing a “COVID-safe travel zone” between them. Australia and New Zealand locked down early and were thus able to win time for their hospitals to prepare. On 14 May 2020, NZ only had 65 active cases (less than 1200 cases total and 21 deaths) and Australia 594 (7000 total confirmed cases and 97 deaths)
As both countries have been, so far, quite successful in putting a stop to the spread of the epidemic and keeping the number of deaths quite low, reopening Universities and potentially welcoming back international students is being considered. Both countries are working through a plan to reopen their economies and have noted that the borders may open for international students in the coming months, with appropriate restrictions and quarantine measures.
New Zealand started reopening schools and higher education institutions on 13 May 2020 and is working on a plan to allow international students back into the country.
In a statement on 8 May 2020, Australian prime minister also revealed a plan to gradually remove restrictions, with step 3 of the plan offering the possibility of opening borders to international students who could be able to travel to Australia as early as July (with strict post arrival protocols including a quarantine period). Sources do however point out that the students allowed to enter the country will probably come from a specific number of countries that have brought the virus under control.
Those plans come as studies show that international students are changing their plans, thus the reopening of Australia and New Zealand to international students, is a game changer for international students.
Whether students will return or not remains a question, however, given the widely reported racist attacks on Asian students stirred up by COVID.
More information here.