australia: Australia slowly bouncing back as campus destination for Indian students | India News

Hritish Kakati had a keen interest in sports and sports management since high school at Delhi Public School, Ghaziabad. When planning his higher education pathway, he found that Indian universities didn’t have much to offer in terms of infrastructure facilities and student experience for sports related courses.
A bachelor in business, sports management, at Deakin University, a public university in Victoria, Australia, seemed a good choice for him as he looked around for courses globally. But when Kakati finished high school, in 2020, international travel was completely disrupted because of the pandemic and universities in Australia and several other countries had shut their doors to international students.
“I lost an academic year because of the pandemic. But in 2021, when I started scouting for sports management courses, I was offered a scholarship that covered my tuition fees by Deakin University,” he remembers.
The scholarship was a big advantage and Kakati joined the course in July 2021; starting online and then moving to the campus in Melbourne in February 2022 after Australia reopened its borders to international students late in 2021. The processing of his student visa took around two months and Kakati was very relieved to be able to travel to Australia and join classes in person at campus.
“The whole experience of life on campus is important and I was missing a lot during my online classes. Everyone works here and it is important for sports management students to get internship and part-time work experiences,” he feels. Since he moved to Australia, he has done internships with formula 1 grand prix and is at present a part-time intern at an Australian football, or footy, club.
As of March 13, 2022, over 25,000 Indian students had arrived in Australia since the government announced opening of the borders to students on November 22, 2021, according to a spokesperson at the Australian high commission in Delhi. From November 22, 2021 (when the Australian government announced that the borders would open to students) to March 18, 2022, there were 28,785 student visa applications lodged by Indian nationals. India is Australia’s second largest source of international students. As of December 2021, there were 129,864 Indian student enrolments’ with Australian institutions.
“The Australian government has worked hard to ensure that Indian students are able to return to Australia to commence their studies for semester 1 this year, with 15,310 visas granted from November 22, 2021 to March 18, 2022,” the spokesperson said.
Universities in Australia are upbeat about the increase and recovery in the number of Indian students.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of Indian students on-campus since the re-opening of the borders. The students who were already enrolled earlier and pursuing their degrees online, travelled back to campus to complete the remainder of their degrees and the new students who enrolled for the March 2022 intake were among those who returned to Australia,” says Ravneet Pawha, deputy vice president, global and CEO, South Asia, Deakin University.
She adds that the July 2022 intake is in full swing and hundreds of applications of Indian students are being processed every week.
The availability of employment opportunities for students in Australia has made it an attractive campus destination for Indians. Now, the reopening the borders for international students is also helping meet some of Australia’s labour market needs.
“We have temporarily relaxed student visa work limits for all sectors of the Australia economy. This applies for ongoing students as well as new student arrivals who wish to take up a job prior to course commencement. This means international students can work before their course commences and work more than 40 hours a fortnight in any sector of the economy,” the spokesperson of the Australian high commission said.
The Australian government has, in fact, offered some concessions to international students and graduates to ensure they are not disadvantaged by the pandemic. One of the initiatives is the temporary graduate visa (TGV) programme that has increased the number of years that international students are allowed to live, study and work in Australia after they have finished their studies.
The length of stay for a bachelor’s degree STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) graduate with first-class honours is extended from two to three years post-study. It was increased by one year for masters students who could work for three years if in the three large cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) and additional 1-2 years if they live and work in regional areas.
The TGV continues to experience growth in the number of applications lodged despite border closures as a result of COVID-19, according to the spokesperson for the Australian high commission.
The Australian government and state governments are also collaborating on a Study Australia industry engagement programme, which provides students with a two-week virtual industry experience where they engage in real world business projects to improve post-study employment opportunities.
Further, the recent Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement has stated that Australia will offer around one lakh post-study work visas to Indian students graduating from Australian universities from STEM-based courses.
“Currently, international students are allowed to work unlimited hours and this is largely due to an increased number of jobs that awaits a student. There is a shortage of workers in Australia since migration too was closed for a few years,” feels Ravi Lochan Singh, managing director of educational consultancy Global Reach, which has offices across South Asia. He adds that the numbers of Indian students applying for a student visa is getting very close to the pre-pandemic levels largely because of pent-up demand and also the new changes to the post study work visa rules.
“Local businesses in Victoria and other regions in Australia are dependent on international students and skilled migrants and the border closure has led to various challenges for them, so not only has the re-opening of the borders helped the revival of local business but created more opportunities for students and part-time jobs are at an all-time high,” says Deakin’s Pawha.
The university runs DeakinTALENT International Student Careers (DISC), a programme for international students to explore employment options and build marketability and networking skills and understand the Australian employment market and workplace culture.
Moulishri Shukla, who arrived in Melbourne from Jaipur early this year after the borders were open, is doing a dual degree in bachelors of law and bachelors of arts at Deakin University. “Living on campus in shared apartments is an enlightening experience. Melbourne is not just a learning hub but also a centre of diversity and inclusion,” says Shukla who started her course online last year and has received a tuition waiver for the five-year course. She looks forward to internships and work at law firms in Australia during her course and after she finishes.
“Besides the universities, Australian service industry has also welcomed international students with open arms and the government has also eased the part-time job permissions acknowledging the contribution needed from the international students to keep some of these industries going and also easing the financial pressure on students who need part time jobs in parallel to their studies as a part contribution to living expenses,” says Lakshmi Iyer, senior consultant, higher education.
In fact, international students employed in some sectors are permitted to work more than 40 hours per fortnight given skills shortages and a need to reinvigorate the national economy. “In another announcement early this year, the Australian government has temporarily removed the cap on working hours for all student visa holders, including secondary students, working in any sector. There are critical workforce shortages, particularly in health care, aged care and hospitality,” Iyer added.
For Indian students going to study in Australia, courses in medicine and health, engineering, infotech, management and accounting are popular. STEM is a large and diverse field and jobs in STEM fields are growing twice as fast when compared to other jobs in Australia, according to the spokesperson for the Australian high commission. Some of the popular courses are business analytics, MBA, sports management, masters in education and teaching, masters of professional accounting, finance, marketing, technology and engineering related courses. Bachelors in nursing and business administration are widely popular with undergrad students.
With many Australian universities offering several courses virtually during the pandemic, many Indian students faced a lot of challenges. “Courses like medicine, nursing and agriculture sciences were impacted as they are heavily dependent on practical content and students from these fields suffered the most. The courses were either cancelled and students were given the options to get a refund. They lost precious time in this duration,” says Ravi Veeravalli, principal consultant, Star Global Education Alliance, an education consultancy based in India and Australia.
He adds that although the opening of the Australian borders has had a positive impact on the international education sector, the visa processing times have gone up and are taking almost three months in some cases. “This has forced some students to defer their studies or join courses online if available,” he added.


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