Universities in Australia call for bailout if international students fail to come back

Universities in Australia will need funding from the government according to Sydney University’s acting vice-chancellor Stephen Garton. This is because of the expected shortage of international students who fund a quarter of university research.

Professor Garton said that the universities across the country would need a second financial package to help them in their research work if international students fail to come back.  He also noted that lack of research money would result in researchers fleeing the country.

Last October, the government allocated $1 billion in federal support for university research, after students were advised to stay home due to Covid-19. However, the current uncertainty about the reopening of universities is keeping them on the edge, with many university bosses indicating discomfort about the situation.

International students in Limbo

Universities had hoped that international students would be allowed to travel back to Australia and continue with their education. However, new variants of Covid-19, which is more dangerous and spreading fast, is creating anxiety about whether these students will return.

The slow rollout of the vaccine in the country has also contributed to anxiety with many fearing that international students’ arrival may be pushed to 2022.

Garton said that universities would continue following the setout rules as they await the government’s decision. He noted that, if the government decides that no international students should return this year, then the biggest impact in the education sector will be on Australia’s research.

Garton continued by stating that international students funded a significant portion of the country’s research. Postponing their return would require the government to have a rescue package for researchers in the country for this year.

Brian Schmidt, the vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, said that, without last October’s financial package, research in the country would have been knocked decades backward.

He indicated support for second financial support and highlighted that it would have significant value on the economy, provide employment opportunities and prepare Australia for the post-pandemic world.