With the withdrawal of the international market, and the stresses of delivering education virtually, the university sector has been hit especially hard by COVID-19. The sector, which in the 2018-2019 financial year contributed $37.6 billion in export income to the Australian economy, is a shadow of its former self.
Meanwhile the government last week released its controversial “JobReady Graduates” draft legislation, which aims to promote study in areas it believes will increase the employment prospects of graduates. A new fee structure will steer students towards STEM fields, IT, teaching, nursing and away from the humanities and law.
Professor Barney Glover, former chair of Universities Australia, a peak body for the higher education sector, is Vice Chancellor of Western Sydney University. Among his many roles on advisory committees, he’s on the New South Wales International Education Advisory Board.
While acknowledging the need for innovation and reform in how higher education is delivered, Professor Glover believes it will be a long road back to normality for the university sector, which has had such a high dependence on foreign students.
“This is something that’s going to affect the sector for several years because the recovery – the economic recovery overseas, the capacity for students to study internationally, the amount of international mobility – all of that is going to be curtailed and constrained, which means universities are going to have to deal with a very different financial situation over the course of particularly 21, 22 and I suspect 23.
"And it won’t be, we predict, until 2024 that we see recovery back towards 2019 levels.”