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Australia: Scholarships boom

EducationWorld March 2024 | International News Magazine

Coronavirus has taken the sheen from Australian universities’ golden goose, with discounting, offshoring and other factors slashing the per-student value of international education at many institutions.

A Times Higher Education analysis shows that while overseas enrolments took a battering from Covid-19, so did, tuition fees. Compared with 2019, per-student earnings for almost half the sector are down at least 10 percent — and sometimes much more — in 2022, the most recent year for which enrolment and revenue figures are available.

Lower-ranked universities with substantial overseas enrolments have fared worst, relinquishing about 15-30 percent of their per-student income. They now face a big task rebuilding per-student returns as well as student numbers.

International student fees are vitally important to these often cash-strapped institutions, providing on average 27 percent of their operating revenue in 2019, but that fell to 20 percent in 2022. Another 11 universities saw their per-student income fall by up to 10 percent. International education analyst Keri Ramirez says almost all Australian universities have offered scholarships to new overseas recruits in 2022, typically reducing tuition costs by 15-20 percent.

Ramirez says average international fees have risen by just 1.5 percent in 2022, compared with 5 percent before the pandemic. Meanwhile, lockdowns and other “severe challenges” forced some offshore students to drop subjects, “which ultimately also reduced international revenue.”

Many universities also charged less to students left stranded in their home countries. The University of Queensland, for example, says it has offered a “rebate” to its offshore students during the pandemic “as they were unable to access the benefits of an on-campus student experience”.

Murdoch University has been offering a 20 percent “welcome back” scholarship to many international students, according to vice chancellor Andrew Deeks, who says Murdoch is now reviewing this approach. He says international recruitment had hit record levels in 2023 “and that trend is continuing this year.”

Also read: Australia: China syndrome

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