Universities post healthy surpluses amid international student “collapse”

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, we have witnessed Australia’s universities warn of financial catastrophe from the collapse of international students. We also saw universities cry foul after they were denied the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

Fast forward to today and it appears the universities were crying wolf, with many posting healthy surpluses.

Earlier this month, Times Higher Education reported that the  University of Melbourne’s preliminary financial results posted a $180 million surplus for 2020, including an operating surplus of $8 million. Monash University’s unaudited results also reported an operating surplus of $259 million.

Today, The Australian reports that the University of Queensland recorded a $109 million operating surplus last year, which was only slightly below the $128 million surplus recorded in 2019. Nor have international student fees collapsed:

[University of Queensland] held on to far more Chinese students via online study than it had initially ­expected…

Professor Terry said this year’s international student acceptances were only 4 per cent less than 2019, which was the last year not affected by COVID.

Other universities have also fared much better than expected. For instance, the University of Adelaide revised its forecast of a $100 million revenue shortfall to $60 million. The University of Sydney downgraded its predicted losses from $470 million to $184 million.

It is important to highlight that the number of student visas on issue at the end of last year was the second highest on record, according to the Department of Home Affairs:

Temporary student visas

The number of temporary student visas on issue did not “crash” because of COVID.

Thus, our Chicken Little universities continue to cream enormous fees from international students:

Australian university funding

Australian universities have made like bandits from international student fees.

These same universities insisted they needed millions more in government funding. Just imagine how big their surpluses would have been if they were given JobKeeper?

If universities are experiencing financial troubles, it is because of their own mismanagement, not because of the fake international student “collapse”.

Many universities have wasted copious amounts of money on bloated administrations, gold-plated buildings, and questionable research aimed solely at boosting international rankings so they can attract even more foreign students.

Now it is time for our universities to focus their attention on educating Australians by lifting pedagogical standards. This should always have been their number one priority and their primary reason for being.

Running low quality immigration visa factories for maximum profit was never in the national interest.

Unconventional Economist


  1. DingwallMEMBER

    a $180 billion surplus for 2020

    I knew the snouts were going hard but blimey………

    PS Just imagine how big their surpluses would have been if they were given JobKeeper?
    Are we sure they didn’t receive JobKeeper?

  2. DingwallMEMBER

    Once they finish the strategy going forward, ie they don’t even need to have students here, they can move to a virtual world throwing even more “surplus” into the troughs.

    • Over the years many immigrant Uber drivers I have spoken to have had engineering degrees (in any domain) and cannot get work in their chosen occupation. All of them worked in cafes / hospitality with Uber on the side. It’s nuts. All of them were told that work in Oz was easy to find and well paid. Seems like they are as scammed as the rest of us. It’s only the toadies and grifters who are making coin.

  3. David Jonstone

    Yeah, but there are no students enrolled for this year or next. Lets see how things go then.

    I know at least 4 people from very senior positions who have been let go – in fact only one person has retained their position.

    • I love the “let go” phrase. It makes it sound like these poor folk wanted to go and luckily their employer was gracious enough to comply.

  4. Should be a reasonably high margin business. You pay a few guy to stand in front of 1000 other paying students who are each paying $20k a year for the privilege, oh and you have a quasi-monopoly on the pieces of paper given out at the end.

  5. I should highlight, at least in the case of Adelaide Uni and Uni of NSW they enforced austerity measures to achieve the above. Staff pay cuts and lay offs.