Will international student numbers bounce back in Australia and New Zealand?

The number of international students choosing to study at the brilliant universities found within the UK, the USA, and Canada have started to increase once more. Although the pandemic has made life harder for students traveling overseas for study, it hasn’t stopped the wave of new applicants from making the journey. However, international study has taken a rather large hit in locations such as Australia and New Zealand, as well as there being a shift in the source countries responsible for producing these numbers. Let’s take a closer look.

The highs

Information obtained from student visa data – as students require a visa before they’re able to enroll at an international university – shows that there are three countries whose numbers are starting to return to pre-pandemic levels. This is the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. The UK, in particular, is doing well, with numbers currently 38% higher than pre-COVID levels.

However, several factors are influencing this. For example, some countries, such as the UK, have rebounded faster than others in terms of the pandemic, relaxing rules surrounding foreign travel and international study much quicker. This means that enrolment is much more straightforward than in countries like Australia, where travel restrictions are still severe.

The lows

The same source of data shows that international study in Australia and New Zealand is declining. Just as the UK, USA and Canada all did at the start of the pandemic, Australia and New Zealand have lost 80% of their pre-pandemic levels of international study. It’s much harder to enter or pass through Australia and New Zealand at the moment, which means that it hasn’t been possible for those who wish to study here to make the journey, resulting in a decreased issuing of student visas.

However, current trends for the UK, US and Canada provide hope for these countries. Officials anticipate that because the Australian and New Zealand governments have restricted travel to and from their countries for much longer time periods than the rest of the world, there will be a pent-up desire from students to study there, which will lead to increased visa applications and enquiries. This will be important, especially as international study accounts for 27% of Australia’s total university revenue.

Source countries

The pandemic has also witnessed falls and surges in the countries responsible for producing international students. For example, pre-pandemic China was the largest export of international students. However, numbers fell to 283,795 in the 2020/21 academic year, versus highs of 376,109 students enrolling during 2018/19.

It’s countries such as India and Nigeria who have taken the baton from China in terms of international students. For example, in India, numbers have soared from 257,401 new students in 2018/19 to 327,963 in 2020/21.

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