For the ongoing viability of our outstanding tertiary sector, and for our economy, Victoria urgently needs a plan for the return of international students. The plan should be informed by deep collaboration with the sector.
International education is one of our state’s priority industries. Before COVID-19 international education was worth $14 billion every year for our state and supported around 80,000 Victorian jobs. International students are also critical for our tertiary sector, which has been hard-hit by the pandemic.
Victoria's worldwide reputation for excellence, quality and innovation in tertiary education places the state in a strong position to capitalise on demands for education services – just as we did pre-COVID. Yet, the Andrews Labor Government has no plan to do so, even as it announces a return of some international travelers.
Other states are already moving ahead with detailed, COVID-safe, plans. For instance, Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory brought in around 60 students from Singapore last year. New South Wales and South Australia have well-developed plans to bring students in later in the year.
We must not turn our backs on Victoria’s tertiary sector, or on international students. They deliver major social, cultural and economic benefits to our state, and are especially important to CBD retailers and hospitality businesses.
In 2019 Victoria had 250,000 international students, but that number fell to 120,000 due to the border closures brought on by the pandemic. Now 25,000 students - enrolled in Victorian universities – are in limbo overseas, and want to come back.
Last year the Liberal Nationals released a plan to get Victoria back to work and back in business that called on the government to develop an international student commencement plan.
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Training and Skills, Matt Bach:
“Victoria’s tertiary sector is one of the crowning glories of our state. It relies, just like our economy relies, on international students.
“That the Andrews Labor Government has no plan for the return of international students – in a COVID-safe way – is unacceptable.”