The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the extent to which Australia’s sovereign research capability is vulnerable to a significant downturn in demand for higher education from international students, putting at risk Australia’s hard-won international reputation for high- quality research and the substantial benefits that it produces.
The future of Australia’s world-class university research sector is now precarious due to the loss of international student revenue and will take many years to recover. Our response to this needs to take account of this new reality.
This paper has attempted to identify a range of structural problems with the current system which have less visible in the era of ever-growing international student revenues. Just as Australia once lived “off the sheep’s back”, our university research sector has been living off international students. They are gone now and they won’t be back anytime soon. The need to address these structural issues is now urgent.