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The Effect of Covid-19 on Australian Higher Education and International Students in Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a disaster for the Australian Higher Education sector, especially for international students studying in Australia. Ever since travel restrictions were first placed on February 1, 2020, foreign nationals and student visa holders in Australia have been suffering.

Reportedly, universities in Australia will lose about 16 billion dollars in revenue between June 2020 and 2023. Widespread job losses are other side-effects institutions are struggling with right now.

Here’s a quick analysis of how COVID has impacted the higher education scenario in the country:


Higher Education Enrolments in the Pre-Covid Era – from 2013 to 2019


% total3.5%4.1%4.5%5.0%6.1%7.1%7.8%
% total3.8%3.4%3.1%2.9%2.7%2.5%2.4%
% total6.5%5.8%5.3%4.8%4.2%3.5%3.0%
% total7.2%10.5%12.9%14.5%15.5%18.0%20.5%
% total37.2%35.7%35.6%36.8%38.3%38.3%37.3%
All other countriesEnrolments96,658101,065104,697110,048116,271121,936128,107
% total41.9%40.5%38.5%36.0%33.3%30.6%29.0%


Source: Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), Basic pivot table 2002 onwards

These stats clearly show that the percentage of international students was steadily growing from 2013 to 2019. It also showed that Chinese and Indian students together constituted about 58% of the total international student population in Australia.


Total Revenue Australian Universities were earning from Fee Paid by Overseas Students from 2013 to 2019


YearTotal revenue from all operations ($’000)Change from previous yearRevenue from fee-paying overseas students ($’000)Change from previous yearPercentage of revenue from fee-paying OS students


Source: Department of Education, Skills, and Employment (DESE), Financial Reports of Higher Education Providers

The stats show that the fee international students paid to Australian universities constituted about 27% of their total revenue!


Visa Data shows that the Number of Overseas Students Fell Considerably in 2020


The number of student visas granted by the Australian government is a good indicator to see how many international students are entering the country. Here’s what has happened due to travel restrictions during the COVID era:

The data clearly shows that the number of student visas granted by the Australian government has dropped to almost one-third of the previous numbers. It clearly indicates the big loss Australian universities are facing right now.

Source: Department of Home Affairs, BR0097 Student and temporary graduate visa program report, 31 December 2020


Have Higher Education Enrolments and Commencements of International Students in Australia Fallen too?


NationalityYearTotal EnrolmentsTotal Commencements


Source: Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), Basic pivot table 2002 onwards

  • Enrolments mean the number of students joining a new course in Australia.
  • Commencements mean the number of students completing their courses in the mentioned year.

You won’t notice much drop in the number from 2019 to 2020 but experts at Transtutors say that the drop in visa grants does not show up immediately in enrolment or commencement numbers. Especially while borders are still closed. Some students keep on enrolling and studying courses while remaining offshore. But in the long term, we can see a much greater impact of the pandemic on the number of study abroad students coming to Australia.

To know how you can study in Australia during COVID times, contact our experts now!

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September 27, 2021

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