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Killing the Australian education export industry: the not so silent murder!

By Michael Baron - posted Monday, 24 August 2020

The pandemics-fuelled depression appears to be inevitable with almost every if not every single industry impacted directly or indirectly. There is little argument over the fact that in the light of the COVID-19, the government needed to ''adjust'' the logistics our economy and society have been run by. However, many (myself included) have every reason to question the adequacy of the adjustments and are left wondering whether the cost of mitigation brought upon us is way too high.

I have been involved in the Australian International Education industry for almost 20 years and I have been thrilled to watch it grow and prosper over the years as it has been going from strength to strength. In the 2018-19 Financial Year, the Australian Educational Exports accounted for $37.6billion making it Australia's most prosperous service exporting industry. Rome was not built in one day! It has taken us 20 years to become one of the leading global providers of the International Education:

Source: MacroBusiness (2020)


It should also be noted that the Educational Exports have been instrumental in contributing funds towards development of infrastructure for the local students. In Victoria alone, several new University and TAFE campuses have been erected, new colleges registered and 1000s of jobs created.

The ''snapshot'' above does appear to be very promising … but it is unfortunately no longer reflective of the current state of affairs within the Industry. After years of growth, the Education Export Industry is heading towards a complete collapse! Once the government closed the Australian borders, many international students got stuck overseas without a possibility to return to the Australian shores (even via a quarantine program, despite the fact that at the time – we were yet to learn how badly one (aka the Victorian Government) can possibly mismanage the quarantine). It was rather odd that the Australian residents could still return…but the international students could not.

However, this was just the beginning of the demise! It has very quickly become transparent that no new ''recruits'' will be able to come to Australia…so international enrolments into the Australian Institutions have plummeted! As of now, the international students who enrol to commence their studies online in hope of an opportunity to ''come to Australia at some later date…but nobody can tell them when it is going to happen'' are few and far between.

In the light of the lack of the new enrolments, the Australian Institutions are currently:

  • Experiencing dramatic losses of revenue (with some of the smaller TAFE colleges that have been relying predominantly on the international student population nearing bankruptcies and consequent closures)
  • Laying of staff that may leave the field of education once and for all by taking their expertise to other industries
  • Reviewing and downsizing the programs delivered as having smaller numbers of enrolled students obviously result in cuts to the offerings

In a nutshell, the Australian Government has put our International Education Industry into an ''induced coma'' and is providing no indication when the coma is supposed to be over. In the meantime, the training providers are struggling to plan their crisis response strategies as they are even less certain what is to come next. Will the students be allowed into Australia (obviously not into Victoria but at least some other states) next month? Or will it be next year or even the year 2022? Nobody is there to tell them.


To make things worse, we are eagerly and diligently ruining our relationship with China – one of the key importers of our education services and creating waves of the dissatisfaction across the current International student communities that will inevitably lead to further damages to our reputation within the marketplace.

To sum up, all we can do for now is hope that by the time the Australian Government will decide to end the coma and revive the International Education Industry, it will be more alive rather than dead!

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About the Author

Dr Michael Baron is the founder and CEO of Baron Consulting, a Melbourne-based IT and business strategy consulting firm. He has also been lecturing MBA and MIS students at some of the leading Australian Universities.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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