Briefing paper

International students vital to coronavirus recovery

COVID-19 Universities Higher education International students Australia

New international student numbers have dwindled in the wake of the coronavirus and many of those that remain are under increasing financial stress.

Using ABS census data and enrolment trends to map where post-secondary international students lived prior to COVID-19, the Mitchell Institute estimates that international students make up over 30% of the resident population in many suburbs in major cities.

CBD areas and suburbs close to university campuses have the highest percentage of international students.

However, some areas further away from university campuses also have high international student numbers, such as the west of Melbourne and Sydney, and the south of Brisbane. There are also significant numbers of international students in regional Australia.

The paper also points out that domestic students have benefited from the extra resources international students have brought to Australia’s education institutions. The paper recommends increasing capacity across the tertiary education sector so that our education institutions can continue to function properly and provide domestic students with the training needed to support a coronavirus recovery.

Key messages:

  • International students are vital parts of our local communities
  • International students contribute to the economy and are needed for a COVID-19 recovery
  • Policies and measures that support new international students to start study in Australia when it is safe to do so will help speed up Australia’s economic recovery


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