Number of Chinese Students in Australia Remains Stable Despite COVID-19

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Despite the overall decrease in the number of international students pursuing higher education in Australia, the country’s universities have continued to enroll many Chinese students. This year, the number of university Chinese enrollments has marked only a 2 percent decline compared to 2020, according to government data.

As of July 2021, the number of Chinese students enrolled in the higher education sector in Australia stood at 140,786, whereas last year, there were 143,778 Chinese enrollments, Erudera.com reports.

On the other hand, the total number of Chinese students enrolled in all education sectors, including higher education, VET, schools, ELICOS, non-award, dropped from 202,094 in 2020 down to 178,219 this year.

Data also revealed that Chinese enrollments at Australian prestigious universities increased by 6.4 percent this July, compared to the same period last year.

Group of Eight (Go8), which is a network of Australia’s leading universities, has not been affected at all by the COVID-19 pandemic, as they account for 70 percent of Chinese higher education enrollments and 73 percent of Chinese commencements.

The education policy fellow at the Mitchell Institute, Peter Hurley, told the Guardian that it was hard to get the big picture as in some cases, individual students can be counted two times.

“Student enrolments function like a pipeline, they can take two to five years to go through the process and travel through different sectors in the process – a journey from the school sector to higher education or from the Elicos sector to university,” Hurley said.

Earlier this year, Chinese students in Australia voiced concerns about China monitoring them, following the aggravated relations between the two countries. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report named “They Don’t Understand the Fear We Have” pointed out that the government of China and its supporters have monitored, harassed, and intimidated the pro-democracy Chinese students in Australia.

Despite the number of Chinese enrollments remaining stable, the overall number of international enrollments in the country has dropped by 12 percent as of July this year, from 389,814 students in 2020 down to 342,656 international students this year.

In March last year, there were 620,000 international student visa holders when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, compared to 423,000 in 2021. International students stuck overseas have been banned from entering Australia for 551 days now. Their situation continues to be the same, pushing students to even warn of protests in front of the embassies.

Australia closed its borders on March 20, 2020, to all non-citizens and non-residents due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, international students have constantly urged competent bodies to allow them to enter the country and continue in-person classes.

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