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International students face financial losses and mental strain as Australia defers opening borders again

Australia has deferred international student entry until December 15 to better understand the new COVID-19 variant. International students on the receiving end yet again!
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   30-11-2021

International students face financial losses and mental strain as Australia defers opening borders again
Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels

Earlier in November, the Australian government had announced that the country’s borders would open for fully vaccinated international students. This news had been met with relief from the student community and higher education stakeholders.

The previous two years have had a huge impact on the sector. In February, Universities Australia reported a loss of approximately 17000 jobs in 2020. 1.8 billion dollars were lost in revenue compared to 2019. Universities Australia Chief Catriona Jackson had said that continuing border closures would mean that universities would “face the double whammy of fewer returning students in 2020, and reduced numbers in 2021. The cumulative impact won’t be felt just in 2020 and 2021, but for years to come.”

So, Australia's open borders were widely celebrated.

However, with this sudden backstep, there is once again frustration and despair among international students. The Pie News reported a prospective student of the University of Wollongong as saying that this move had cost him 2000 AUD and “enormous mental torture.”

The student added that he had already deferred his entry twice due to the travel ban and was no longer in a position to lose more money. He also told said that the lack of support from the higher education sector was taking a toll: “Did they reach out to us to ask for our mental health or to support us financially with all the flight cancellations? [There’s been] no communication. Just [a] one-way order without thinking of the impact it’ll have on us.” [The Pie News]

There has been criticism earlier of Australia’s lack of support for international students during the pandemic even as it continued its recruitment efforts. The Guardian had also reported on how temporary visa holders were dependent on food vouchers for survival. The Council of International Students Australia (CISA) published a report in May that said 93% of international students stranded abroad were experiencing significant mental health issues. A whopping 91% of respondents had asked for mental health support.

CISA had therefore called for “unified policies on fee payment flexibility, flexible deferrals/study load reduction, and fee freeze until 2024.” It also called for a nationally coordinated plan with concrete steps to bring students back urgently along with clear communication on the roadmap to return and requirements.

These are concerns that the government is yet to address. And now with another major decision – the need for these measures is more urgent than ever.



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