01.04.2021From the CEO – 1st April 2021

It is time for a concerted effort to get international students back to Melbourne. The recent Victorian announcement to reopen Victoria to international students is a welcome sign of progress.

However to remain competitive and save jobs and knowledge, we need to bring international students back at scale, quickly and efficiently. We also need community support. You can read below our three ideas on how this could be done.

Melbourne is a university city and known as Australia’s knowledge capital. International education is Victoria’s single largest international export and our fourth largest national export, adding $37.5 billion to our economy last financial year. It is estimated to support 250,000 jobs. International education brings skills and investment to our city with enormous benefits for our economy, our community and our health.

Universities are not the only beneficiaries of international education-not by a long shot. As Minister Tudge points out in a recent speech to RMIT, only around 40 percent of the economic contribution of international students is in fee revenue. The majority of the economic contribution is from students and their families spending money in Australia on housing, food, transport and tourism.

40% of our graduate students are researchers who contribute to our knowledge, including on key public health challenges such as fighting COVID, cancer and mental health challenges.

As a cross sectoral organisation, the Committee’s members have an interest in playing their part in supporting universities and building community support for fast tracking the return of international students and reviving international education.

Federal government authorities refer to community opposition and say that our priority is to bring 40,000 Australians home. With apparent state of the art hotel quarantine and tracking and tracing, we must be able to do both.

If ever there was a case for a joint approach by the Federal and State governments to make this happen, now is the time.

Yes, the sectors needs reform. In particular, our reliance on sourcing most of our students from 2 large countries needs urgent redirection. We welcome the federal government’s announced consultation process for the development of the Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030 and look forward to making our contribution.

And while we are on the subject of being competitive, ABS Statistics data for 2019-20 – the months before the worst of Melbourne’s COVID-19 shutdowns last year – shows our population grew to nearly 5.16 million, mostly driven by overseas migrants. This puts us at only 205,000 less than our biggest city, Sydney, the smallest gap since the 1930s. However, Melbourne has lost its mantle as Australia’s fastest growing capital to Brisbane, which grew by 1.9 per cent and Perth, with growth of 1.8 per cent.

We will need to move fast to attract talent and capital to our city-and for the moment, Sydney and Brisbane are ahead of us. All the more reason to move quickly on bringing the world back to Melbourne.

Further Reading: “Australia: Growing frustration at continued border closures for international students” from ICEF Monitor.

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