In August, there were 88, 203 international students in Victoria. This was roughly 42 per cent fewer than the amount of international students here at the end of March 2020.
The impact of COVID and the switch to online learning at universities has reduced the presence of international students in Victoria. As students graduate and return overseas, the ones that would normally replace them are unable to arrive due to border restrictions. Moreover, the students that remain in Victoria are suffering from compromised education quality, mental anguish and financial difficulties. On Tuesday September 7, Melbourne councillors attended a Future Melbourne Committee meeting to discuss this issue.
“International students contribute to Melbourne’s exciting, vibrant and inclusive culture. International students are employees, business owners, volunteers, neighbours and friends,” said Lord Mayor Sally Capp.
“Prior to the pandemic, international students contributed $13.7 billion a year to Victoria’s economy and supported nearly 80,000 jobs, so we know their return will benefit our economic recovery.
“All levels of government should be working together with the sector to reboot international education, and planning for a substantial return of students by the start of 2022, or as soon as Australia reopens its border.”
Future Melbourne Committee Meeting
At the meeting, councillors endorsed a number of activities to help bring international students back safely and in strong numbers.
They include advocating for immediate action from the Federal Government, so that a plan will be in place in time for the start of the 2022 academic year. This plan will need to consider factors such as quarantine arrangements and travel bubbles with low-risk countries.
The City of Melbourne will also push for programs such as Experience Melbourne. This program will encourage students to return to the city, through free attractions, group activities and curated outings.
“In 2019, more than 150,000 international students from 170 countries lived in Melbourne, making it one of the world’s best student cities,” said Councillor Davydd Griffiths, Education and Innovation portfolio lead.
“We must protect Melbourne’s reputation as a global education hub and pave the way for international students to return as soon as it’s safe to do so.”