Australian universities are bracing for another influx of onshore students after the Chinese government announced it would no longer allow its citizens to study with foreign education providers online. Instead, it is urging its citizens to return to their respective campuses overseas.
With the first semester of the Australian academic year set to begin in a few weeks, thousands of Chinese students are now scrambling to coordinate their travel back to Australia.
Australian universities have welcomed the abrupt decision, but also acknowledge there will be some logistical hurdles involved as a predicted 40,000 Chinese students return to Australian shores in a few weeks.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson responded to the announcement on Sunday 29 January.
“We will be working closely with government and industry to ensure universities can quickly respond to this influx and facilitate the safe return of students from China as well as students from other nations,” Jackson said.
The abrupt policy shift, however, could also add further demand to Australia’s tight accommodation markets and put pressure on Australia’s visa processing. However, it may also help ease the skill shortage that nearly doubled in 2022 and is continuing in 2023.
Vicki Thomson, chief executive of the Group of Eight universities, stressed that it would be an almost impossible task for some students to return at such short notice.
“We are concerned at the bluntness of this decision and we will seek urgent advice and clarification from the Chinese Embassy on what special circumstance provisions are available,” she said.
“We also urge the [Australian] Government to prioritise visa processing for all international students so that we can return to normal and minimise further disruption.
According to The Guardian, the sudden ban on online study follows a strengthening of relations between Beijing and Canberra since Labor took office in May last year.