3 in 5 international students less likely to recommend Australia to study

By Naomi Neilson|21 September 2020
international students less likely to recommend Australia

Due to Australia’s disappointing response to international students amid the pandemic, three in five had indicated they are less likely to recommend it as a place to study.

International students said the Australian government’s response during the pandemic has left them feeling less like humans and “merely a money-making machine” that the country’s top leaders have refused to acknowledge as they struggle through the crisis.

In a nationwide survey conducted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Law School, three in five international students reported that they were less likely or much less likely to recommend Australia as a place of study or for a working holiday. It makes up important education markets, including Chinese and Nepalese students.

One female international student said she feels the Australian government has refused to consider temporary visa holders as human beings: “It is appalling to see the Prime Minister [Scott Morrison] consoling the citizens saying that we are all in this together – but at the same time telling migrants to go back home in a pandemic.”


The survey of more than 6,000 students and other temporary migrants found that over 70 per cent have lost all or most of their work during the pandemic, leaving thousands, and 10 per cent of the Australian workforce, unable to pay for food or rent.

While previous studies have documented aspects of the financial hardships, this is the first that reveals the depth of social exclusion, racism and the emotional consequences of Australia’s policies, which have significantly impacted the global reputation.

Associate Professor Bassina Farbenblum, who worked alongside Associate Professor Laurie Berg, said Australia is likely to bear the consequences for decades to come.

“Many of those suffering in Australia will now return home to become leaders in various business and politics, holding roles of social influence around the region. Experiences during this period will not be quickly forgotten,” A/Prof Farbenblum cautioned.

The survey revealed more than half of the respondents believe their financial stress is likely to deepen by the end of the year, with one in three forecasting that the funds will run out by October. Thousands have expressed anguish and anger of the government decision to exclude them from JobKeeper and JobSeeker support.


In addition, a quarter experienced verbal racist abuse and a quarter reported that most people were avoiding them because of their appearance. More than half of all Chinese respondents reported experiencing either or both of these.

“Over 1,600 participants described being targeted with xenophobic slurs, were treated as though they were infected with COVID because they looked Asian or harassed for wearing a face mask,” said A/Prof Farbenblum, adding that many reported it was due to their Asian appearance that they were “punched, hit, kicked [and] shoved”.

3 in 5 international students less likely to recommend Australia to study
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