The impact of COVID-19 in the international education sector continues this year. Institutions are dealing with great uncertainties and the effects of border restrictions.


For that reason, last week we shared our 3rd Key Data Update of 2021 with our friends, clients and colleagues.


During the session, we shared our recent analysis of market trends, the economic drivers affecting border restrictions around the world and the expected impact of the vaccine roll-out for the international education sector in Australia and New Zealand.


Strategic planning has been severely affected by the level of uncertainty however, we believe that the key data insights could support institutions in putting plans in place for the rest of 2021 and 2022. This 3rd Key Data Update provides insights on how other countries around the world are easing travel restrictions and how vaccine roll-outs may play a role in helping nations open their economies.

We invite you to watch the complete video or see some of the highlights of our analysis below:  


The effect of COVID-19 continue in 2021 affecting the Australian international education. But the impact has been different across the sectors. 


The ELICOS and the School sector have experienced a further decline in enrolments since April 2020. ELICOS has seen a 65% decline in enrolments while schools have reported a 31% decline (YTD April figures). Although these sectors have adopted great online learning initiatives, these sectors have been impacted heavily by the boarder restrictions as international students prefer and benefit from face-to-face learning for these programs.


The VET sector has maintained a large proportion of their record-breaking number of enrolments in 2020. The sector experienced a 16% growth in 2020 compared to 2019 and year to data figure for April 2021 reported only a 0.5% drop in enrolments.



Higher Education enrolments have fallen by 12.6% compared to April 2020. In April 2021, 315,772 international students were enrolled in a higher education programs which is around the same number reported back in 2018. The great efforts in offering engaging online learning and transnational education options have helped to maintain enrolments.


Commencements in Higher Education, however, have dropped by nearly 22% (YTD April 2021).  If we compare the number of commencements in 2021 with commencements in 2019, the sector is down 35%.


The data shows that the impact of border restrictions is significantly larger for postgraduate programs (commencements are 30% down) than undergraduate programs (commencements are 7% down). It’s expected that universities will adjust their student recruitment strategies to minimize the effect on postgraduate study.



Boarder restrictions are easing around the world but, by how much and why? 

According to as of early July 2021,  82 countries still have borders closed, 125 countries are open with restrictions and 14 countries have open borders!  Our neighbouring countries borders in the Asia-Pacific region are largely closed.  


Border Restriction in International Education
Border Restrictions in International Education


Economic difficulties are an important driver to easing border restrictions. Many European countries depend significantly on international tourism to boost their economic growth and for that reason they are relaxing some of the border limitations. For example, at this stage France, Italy and Germany have only around 35% of their adult population fully vaccinated. 


Public perception towards the easing of border restrictions will play also an important role and governments will have to consider this when thinking about opening international borders. In many countries people are still cautious and anxious however, this will change as vaccination rates increase, COVID-19 is controlled in more countries and a comprehensive roadmap is developed to re-engage with the world.


Vaccination is a game changer for the international education sector. 


During the Key Data Update, we presented some additional perspectives on "when" and "how" international borders might open.  Based on current vaccination rates here in Australia, we estimate that 75% of the adult population may be vaccinated by November 2021. 


We estimate that one of the first groups which may be eligible to cross boarders are potentially Australian based Outbound Mobility students (Group 1) who are fully vaccinated and want to participate in an international mobility program in countries deemed safe. This means that in September or October this year, institutions might start getting enquiries from this group of students who are keen to travel early next year! Are universities ready and able to assist them when the time comes?


As vaccine rollouts evolve and younger populations have access to vaccines, we will see more and more international students eligible to enter Australia and hopefully 2022 will increase these opportunities for students.



September and October may be the best time to put together an action plan!


The international education sector in Australia may consider getting the supply chain ready when around 50% of the population in Australia is vaccinated to allow time to get everything set up to assist international and local students with their enquiries and preparations to travel into and outside of Australia for study purposes.  

Market research will be essential during this time to piece together a comprehensive view of key industry data, student perceptions, government policies etc. and to develop a detailed data driven plan to map your response to an ever-changing environment.





You can watch our July 2021 Key Data Update here!

 Please contact us to obtain more information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..





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