Sydney most exposed to Chinese international student collapse

Professor Salvator Babones, author of last year’s seminal report on Australian universities’ unhealthy reliance on Chinese international students, has provided updated data on the elite Group of Eight (Go8) universities’ Chinese exposure.

This data shows that Sydney’s universities are the most exposed to a collapse in Chinese international student enrolments:

Across all of Australia’s higher education institutions, Chinese students account for 37.3% of international students and more than 10% of all students. These figures only count students who are actually residents of mainland China; students from Hong Kong and Chinese citizens who are resident in Australia are not included. China truly is, as a 2019 Four Corners documentary put it, Australia’s international student ‘cash cow’…

The table below presents best-available estimates of Chinese student numbers and revenues at Australia’s G8 universities plus the University of Technology Sydney. Only columns (1), (2), (6), and (7) are exact figures; all other columns are best estimates based on publicly available data…

The University of Sydney and UNSW lead the country in numbers of Chinese students, with roughly 17,000 and 16,000, respectively. Both universities depend on Chinese student tuition for as much as one-quarter of their total revenues from all sources. Other highly exposed universities include UTS and (probably) Melbourne. Chinese students account for more than 13% of total enrolments at all G8 universities except UWA. For comparison, the most China-exposed public university in the entire United States, the University of Illinois, enrols 5,845 Chinese students, who make up 11.3% of its student body. Considering this concentration to be extremely risky, in 2017 the university prudently took out insurance against any sudden decline.

Australians don’t even have an exact accounting of the number of Chinese students attending their universities. Unlike US, UK, and Canadian universities, Australian universities (and their regulators) do not routinely publish statistics that break down international student enrolments by country of origin. Nineteen distinct sources had to be consulted to assemble the picture presented in the table below, and even so, the picture is incomplete. Good data is the first requirement for good policy. Australia’s universities and their regulators should implement international best practice and start providing routine, detailed statistics on international student numbers.

Professor Babones’ findings are broadly supported by the Department of Education’s international student database, which shows that New South Wales universities (64,000) had the highest number of Chinese student enrolments in 2019, followed by Victoria’s (54,000):

Therefore, Australia’s two major jurisdictions are the most exposed to any collapse in Chinese students resulting from the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus).

Leith van Onselen
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  1. But what is the opportunity-cost of turning our universities into degree mills that devalue Australian qualifications by mass producing them, and in the process dropping academic standards? Pandering to the ‘service economy’ bull that has in effect privatised universities and set free the worst of ‘managerialism’ typical of the short-sighted piece of social vandalism that has affected almost all other public institutions, but none worse than Australian universities.

    Australia is one of the worst OECD performers in innovation for driving a productive economy. This is the main event. That’s the killer. The above article describes symptoms of a much bigger disease.

    Too dependent on China – obviously. But the entire business model is the brain child of infantile neoliberalism “thinking” that has no stake in nation building. It has torn this nation apart as it values nothing other than profit and owes nothing to the people it robs of public assets and amenity.

    There is a reason why Bernie Sanders has backed free tertiary education in the USA. It’s not just a vote winner – it actually drives a productive economy if configured correctly. It’s bastardisation and integration with the debt-economy has gone hand in hand with the fall of the US middle class. In Australia we have not just screwed up tertiary institutions; the social role and purpose of universities has been corrupted by a race to the bottom.

    In Australia we’ve allowed both the LNP and the ALP to sell our tertiary institutes and national assets down the river for a buck to balance the frigging budget. Moronic bean counters and yesterday’s Kennett-era troglodytes are still in charge. We need to wrest control from them and see them off forever, sending them to a national purgatory where history records them as the traitors to our youth and betrayers of our national values.

    Key to this madness is the ‘everyone must go to uni’ crud and the running down of TAFE. No. We’d be far better off with a very different view that seeks careers based upon natural talent and inclination – and links these institutions up in communities of innovation; not corporations for flogging degrees and turning out useless qualifications and debt.

    As far as anything or anyone can be ‘evil’ the corruptors of our tertiary institutions and their spawn of parasitic carpetbaggers, who oversee this prostitution scheme, richly deserve such opprobrium.

    As for those CEO (VCs) in academic gowns, they have betrayed traditions going back to the Ancient Greeks; a shame that hemlock has gone out of fashion as a remedy.

    This truly is a disgusting monument to the neoliberal pox that infected the West in the 1980s and will not die because our zombie politicians have run out of ideas for how this can be done better.

  2. At some point in the future the virus will be everywhere. At that time there is little to gain from closed borders. Before then it will spread to many of the other large crowded nations in our region. So it won’t just be Chinese students that will be missing, but all our main import students. Today it is go8s and China. Tomorrow it will be IRUs and India etc.

  3. It’s going to tough for me to make it through today just digesting this terrible news. Perhaps I’ll light a candle.

  4. I can vouch for this. It is fvkn out of control here. UTS UNSW USYD are the evil trinity of Chinese international students and Chinese Communist Party influence.

  5. Goldstandard1MEMBER

    This virus just might be the reboot our country needs.
    Get off the Chinese teet!
    Use the low AUD for the next few years to bring manufacturing back
    BE the food bowl of Asia
    For god sake BE a country of making, doing and thinking again!!

    • Arthur Schopenhauer

      It could be. But it would need enlightened national leadership to redirect capital from property into manufacturing plant.

      That plant has to financed, built (mostly in Germany & USA), assembled, processes developed, workforce trained, and finally turned on to make stuff.

      Can anyone see a Curtain, Chifly or Coombs in the wings?

  6. It is pretty much a given that #scottyfrommarketing will open the borders again to appease the VC’s, so WuFlu is one it’s way and it will be about surviving it once winter comes around and it gets to have a go in the country that rewards having a go.
    The world is going to be a different place once WuFlu has run it’s course, I expect it will be spring before we see the end of it.

  7. The BystanderMEMBER

    And in breaking news, USyd VC Michael Spence has resigned his position to take up a job in the UK. I feel bad for whoever takes over and has to deal with the dumpster fire that is declining standards coupled with freefalling Chinese enrolments.