Universities Australia call for hardship fund for international students

The peak body for the Australian universities sector has outlined recommendations designed to “prevent serious damage to Australia’s research capability”, as well as arguing for more support for international students.

“Funds are close to exhausted and numbers requiring assistance are not diminishing”

It highlighted that of the AUD$40 billion that international students contribute to the economy annually, $17.3bn goes to the universities and other education providers in fees, and the remaining $22.8bn is injected into local economies.

However, UA pointed out, as temporary visa holders international students are excluded from Australia’s social security system, and many have faced significant hardship.

“For many, it is impossible to return home while the Covid-19 crisis disrupts international travel,” noted UA.

While the country’s universities have established support programs to help those experiencing pandemic-related hardship – between March and June 2020 Australian universities provided $110 million to more than 75,000 international students in need – UA explained that “this is during a time when university finances are under serious pressure and many other cost-saving measures were being implemented”.

“Funds are close to exhausted and numbers requiring assistance are not diminishing,” it warned.

And while Australia remains an attractive study destination, UA has called for extra efforts to be made to maintain its reputation as a welcoming place for international students.

“Other competitor nations have been mindful of preserving their competitive advantage in international education,” UA noted.

“Government wage subsidy and income support programs implemented in response to the pandemic in the UK, New Zealand and Canada have been extended to international students, providing protection and support to those students who have lost their part-time work and meet the necessary eligibility criteria.

“The Australian government should augment existing university hardship funds to support international students to meet their basic needs for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis,” it added.

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