Indian students in Australia have traditionally formed among the highest number of international students in the country, second only to China. Researchers, however, recently found that Indian student sentiment to study in Australia has declined in 2021.
Using AI-powered strategic market research techniques to analyse public sentiments towards Australia as a study destination for Indian international students, researchers Anna Boucher and Elisa Choy found that issues such as underpayment in the labour market, Australia’s quality of education and policies that affected the arrivals of Indian nationals played a role in the decline.
Indian students currently make up 21% of international student entries, according to the Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030 report.
Indian students in Australia: Why the country is perceived as unwelcoming
Their recent study of Indian sentiment towards education shows that Australia has fallen as an attractive future option for education since their last analysis of this issue in November 2020, challenging the likelihood that India will emerge as a viable alternative source of students.
Their data also shows that Indian interest in Australia as an education destination has worsened significantly since November 2020 due to the perception that the country was unwelcoming to Indian students in Australia.
“In the nine months to August 2021, this sentiment shifted significantly towards dominant and strong negative, including emotions of strong dislike and anger and a reduction in expectation towards Australia as a destination for education,” said researchers on the Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter.
This relates to the ban on Indian Australian arrivals in late April 2021, which required that anyone, including Australians, who had been in India in the previous two weeks and attempted to return to Australia – even via a third nation such as New Zealand – would face jail time and large fines of up to AU$66,000.
“This stance was not adopted towards British or American arrivals when they faced similar COVID-19 crisis case numbers earlier in 2021,” said researchers. Many people of Indian background, or those resident in India, who were seeking entry into Australia, were also banned from entry.
A second issue that compounded Australia’s declining reputation in India as a higher education destination include concerns about Australians declining educational performance generally.
Their analysis also shows Indians are concerned about wage theft of Indians working in Australia and believe this has worsened since the pandemic. Indian students in Australia have higher rates of labour force participation than students from China and are more likely to be affected by underpayment and decline in labour market conditions.
Previously, IDP Connect client director Andrew Wharton told Study International said data observation from the last two years shows “a steady decline in interest in Australia,” adding that all destination markets took a hit due to the onslaught of COVID-19.
Deteriorating interest to study in Australia was apparent in certain markets, including India. Two years ago, Australia took a 20% share of demand from that market. At the time the article was published, that figure plunged to 9%.
Wharton said a key motivation for Indian students’ decision to study abroad include migration and face-to-face learning opportunities. Their Crossroads surveys — which examined attitudes and intentions of international student applicants — shows Indian students are struggling with online learning.
“I think it’s primarily because they didn’t have the hardware and the internet connection to have an enjoyable [online learning] and satisfying experience. They were doing their courses on mobile phones and with a poor [internet] connection. So that’s what we’ve seen has happened,” he explained.
The Sydney Morning Herald previously reported that the Indian student market was worth 6.6 Australian billion dollars to the country’s economy in the 2019-20 financial year, second only to China as the top source country of foreign students studying in Australia.