China deals fatal blow to international student industry

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.

Leith van Onselen


  1. Based on the changes it’s made. If the coronavirus was a political party. It would be elected to federal parliament.

    • It would have a much better chance than Kevin Rudd, who wants a 50m population in Australia, to stave off (??) Chinese threats. Or George Megalogenis, orgasmic that Melbourne is going to beat Sydney to 8m.

    • The Coronavirus Party would also fund the Tertiary Sector properly so that it would not have to rely so much on International students and then go “full retard” on International Students, thus turning itself into a business where the doors are thrown wide open to any international halfwit with a fat wallet.

  2. Given that China is ground zero globally for new and emerging diseases, are we to believe that there has been no consideration of this risk to the prevailing Australian university business model?

    It’s not as if China’s role in the emergence of new influenza strains is unknown. Remember that the 2002–2003 respiratory syndrome known as SARS originating in Southern China. Thousands of research papers have been written about why China is central to epidemic and pandemic disease.

    When one looks at the massive dependence of some G8 universities on Chinese students, it is hard to feel any sympathy for the ‘executives’ and politicians who have produced this policy. Of course massive population movements increase risks of epidemics. Of course this is a predictable consequence. Of course no one discusses this openly – it would be racist to do so apparently. Better that Australian citizens pick up the externalities without a word said. To discuss it would be fear-mongering with facts and that can’t be tolerated.

    • Precisely, because if you threaten the profits with analytical reason, questions, and logic then that’s considered racist fear mongering. We should simply eat the shit sandwich that’s Australia’s education and immigration policies, obey orders, and f#$k off.

      • Yet if you got to Sth America & return to
        Australia, they make you produce a yellow fever vaccination certificate at the border before they let you in.

        But Sth America is worth just $, while China is worth $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, so I guess that explains the difference. It’s really hard to see past those $$$$$$$$&$$, so, as you say, nobody could’ve seen it coming.

        • Follow the money!

          This attitude is merely a reflection of the moral degradation that’s become a feature of Western society in recent decades — papered over with oodles of virtue signaling crapola.

    • Possibly a new virus in Nigeria also, about 100 people dead, though some think it’s poisoning.

      Not to mention tens of thousands going to Africa from China with it’s very poor health & government services. The compromised WHO seem to think it’s fine despite their dire warnings ti the world. What could possible go wrong?

  3. Relations industry is down too!

    4 Feb, 2020

    She said despite slashing her rates of NZ$180 (US$116) by half, business had still fallen by more than 50 per cent in the last fortnight.

  4. nothing can destroy our degree mill industry but revocation of student working rights and priorities to get residency

      • MountainGuinMEMBER

        Ah, so rather than group work assignments where those with good English have to cover those who dont, students can now be told to buy text books and teach themselves. The outsourcing will be complete. …

      • The Perth mint should replace the Queen with George Calombaris’ face on all our legal tender.

        Only then will we secure the upper echelons of total moral and economic bankruptcy.

    • It’s what happens when government defunds universities and makes them chase their own funding through “profits”.

      But it’s ok, because the market operates, and there is a profit motive. And they are both to be revered.

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        And right now government is getting in the way of the efficient running of this market hence why things fark up! Government should only be funded to provide security to markets, ie, police (and only to the extent that supplements private security forces)!

      • It’s what you get when pollies sit down to figure how to reduce taxpayer input while allowing some private enterprise to make up the deficit.

        Which isn’t a bad idea in itself as foreign students should be allowed to come and study here.

        The problem is stapling PR to the student visas. Without that, the students that come here would be coming purely for the education and each institution would be incentivized to raise the standards in order to attract foreign students – that way everyone’s a winner. Sadly, the sale of citizenship has caused the complete opposite and the quality of tertiary education is headed into the Gary Glitter as a result.

  5. The Chinese government is trying to hide the extent of the problems without resorting to outright bans.
    Cancelling these tests keeps the students from transmitting the virus overseas and in the process exposing their lies.