A collapse in Chinese international student enrollments at Australia’s universities is looking more certain after the Chinese government cancelled English-language tests for a second month to stem the spread of the coronavirus:
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test is a cornerstone requirement for foreign students to enrol in almost all Australian university courses.
The [university] sector is concerned that test rooms will also be shuttered in March and possibly into the middle of the year…
Fresh problems will emerge if the ban is not lifted by April, squeezing time-frames of the second semester intake. Almost all universities have only two intakes (March and August). UNSW has a unique problem though, with its switch to a three-term year in 2019. Its second intake will be affected if the ban stays until only March…
IELTS tests are also need for foundation courses — a preparatory year to bring student up to pace in English — that start a little earlier in mid-February and are feeder courses for universities. Lower numbers in foundation courses in 2019 will mean Chinese student numbers take a further hit in 2020.
To add insult to injury, the Australian Government is set to extend the Chinese travel ban:
Government sources confirmed preparations were under way for an extension of the travel ban for all non-Australian residents travelling from China once the current temporary 14-day restriction expires on Saturday…
The extension of the travel ban, which is not expected to be formally announced until Saturday and could last another fortnight, will rattle the university sector as it prepares for lectures to begin without tens of thousands of students. Orientation Week at many universities is due to start on February 24.
As noted yesterday, there are an estimated 106,680 Chinese students currently blocked from entering Australia, comprising roughly 56% of the total Chinese student cohort.
Sydney and Melbourne-based Group of Eight (Go8) universities are particularly exposed, given they rely on international students for one-third or more of their revenue:
There are an estimated 65,000 Chinese yet to enroll for semester one at Go8 universities. Thus, if the coronavirus is not resolved soon, they could be facing billions in lost fee revenue.