There is probably nobody in this world who hasn’t been affected by the most unexpected and unprecedented phenomenon to hit our planet in over 100 years – the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Australia is no exception to this phenomenon and while the country is trying to get used to the “new normal” life with a partial-lockdown and serious health precautions, they have been able to handle this situation better than most of the world. With less than 7000 people infected so far, the country has once again proved its superior quality of health care and safety.

While Australia is an important and popular destination for international students owing to its renowned universities, practical and hands-on curriculum, part-time and post-study work opportunities and truly multicultural experience and quality of life, it can’t be isolated from the impact of COVID-19. Indian students in particular flock the nation for courses in Business, Engineering, IT, Sports Management, Environment/Renewable Sciences, Mining, Marine Biology, etc. in huge numbers. Over the past decade, Australia has been one of the top-3 destinations for Indian students besides the USA and Canada.

Government and University Response to COVID-19:

It is important to understand here that as per the reports from DFAT- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as Australia’s third largest export, contributing $28 billion annually to the national economy, a diverse and sustainable international education sector is of vital importance to Australia*. What this means is that international students are extremely important to the Australian economy and job market and hence they are taking very specific steps to ensure the well-being of their international student population:

  • Australian Superannuation- International students who have been living in Australia for over 12 months who find themselves in financial hardships will be able to access this fund
  • Extended work hours for students in health care and nursing sectors
  • Flexibility in visas for students who’re unable to attend classes because of the present situation

Besides the Government, Australian Universities have proved to be true champions in paving the way for taking care of their international students better than any other part of the world. While all classes have been moved online, universities are taking special efforts to provide added support to international students to ensure they don’t struggle with assignments and exams. They have also established independent funds (student hardship funds) close to AU$ 110 Million (appx. Rs. 500 crores) to help their international student population on campus**.

Upcoming Intakes, what to expect?

Australia has two major intakes in a year- February and July, a smaller intake in some universities is in October/November. It is undeniable to say that the upcoming July 2020 intake isgoing to be massively impacted by COVID-19 as it’s only a couple of months away. While all the universities are still accepting applications and giving admits to international students, getting finances and visa would be a huge challenge, let alone the fact that our country is still in a complete lockdown with chances of the same getting extended for a few more weeks.

Keeping these things in mind, some Australian universities have delayed their orientation date by a few weeks. Some universities are proposing international students to take up the 1st semester online from their home countries and then start face-to-face classes in Australia once the situation is under control and it’s safe for students to fly. Some universities are also considering a bigger intake in October/November 2020. Many universities are currently giving generous fee waivers, scholarships, bursaries and easy deferral options to students.

While the coming weeks would give us more accurate details about how the upcoming intakes would take shape in Australia and what the universities are proposing to the aspiring international cohort, we advise students to keep their health and safety as their priority. Whether you decide to go in July 2020 or February 2021, one thing is for sure- considering the quality of health care and safety in Australia, it’s pretty clear that in the post-COVID-19 era, Australia will remain a sought-after destination for Indian students keen to study abroad.

Reference:

*https://www.dfat.gov.au/about-us/publications/trade-investment/business-envoy/Pages/march-2018/education

** https://india.highcommission.gov.au/

Ms. Kiran Sawhney

Director & Country Head (Australia & New Zealand)

Imperial Overseas Education Consultants

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