Australian universities estimated on Wednesday that losses linked to the absence of foreign students due to the closure of borders to fight the coronavirus could amount to 10 billion euros.
The lobbying group Universities Australia stressed that this shortfall will have lasting consequences on higher education establishments, but also on research and innovation. Education represents the third “export sector” in Australia, after iron ore and coal.
Last year, more than 500,000 foreign students were enrolled in one of the country’s many universities, bringing in 32 billion Australian dollars (20 billion euros) to the economy.
According to Universities Australia, the sector could lose in 2020 up to 4.8 billion Australian dollars and this figure to reach 16 billion Australian dollars (10 billion euros) in 2023.
“Not only does this income fund the staff and facilities to train the next generation of skilled workers, but it also funds much of the research and innovation that keeps Australia competitive internationally”, said group CEO Catriona Jackson.
After being declared ineligible for government wage subsidies during the epidemic, universities are pushing for funds when more than 20,000 jobs for academics and administrative staff are threatened.
On April 3, in the middle of the first academic semester, Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked international students to “go home” as the country began to take containment measures to curb the epidemic. Many students have remained stranded in the country, however, and depend on charities for food.
Morrison said the ban on foreign travelers entering Australia could last for months. Some states, however, plan to make an exception for foreign students willing to follow a compulsory fortnight upon arrival.