Coronavirus travel ban hits Australian universities, schools as Chinese students stranded overseas

IS this an admission that tertiary education in Australia is not about learning but about revenue streams?

WHO got it wrong? … No, they didn’t …

WHO got it right? It is a huge issue, but it is clear the Universities don’t have a plan B!

WHY didn’t they have a Plan B when they are supposed to be the best and brightest amongst us?

WHY did they put all their eggs in one basket?

WHY were they so disconnected from accounting for risk in their business model?

IF they were so sold on selling…

WHY didn’t they look to other markets, and diversify their sources of revenues?

COULD it be the Middle Kingdom made it clear they wouldn’t compete for places? That they had a ‘right’ as the major player, and would respond in an adverse way if the desired outcome wasn’t achieved in their favour?

WHAT is not liked in one part of the exchange between our economies can easily be addressed by … in a totalitarian setting … not in our world, it’s not controlled that way …

AND we ought not forget the influence peddling … it matters because it works!

Welcome to your pain Australian Universities … are you going to learn from this experience, or is it a case of business as usual when this current emergency ends, and await the next crisis unchanged?

Coronavirus travel ban hits Australian universities, schools as Chinese students stranded overseas

By Nicolas Perpitch

Posted Wed 19 February 2020

Boys sitting at desks raise their hands, a video of a boy on screen with headphones on is projected onto a whiteboard.

PHOTO: Year 11 student Scott had to join his maths class by video link from Guangzhou amid the travel ban. (ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

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Australian universities are bracing for a significant financial hit if the coronavirus travel ban continues, with more than 80 per cent of Chinese students enrolled at some institutions still stuck overseas as lectures are set to resume.

Key points:

  • An estimated 100,000 university students have been held up by the ban
  • China’s restricted internet is making sending course material challenging
  • The financial hit to the sector could be high if universities have to refund fees

The universities, as well as some secondary schools, are using special online learning platforms, third-party companies with contracts into China, live streaming of classes and even the tech savvy of their students to upload course material, despite the Chinese digital firewall making this challenging.

The Federal Government decided last week to extend the travel ban to at least February 22.

Universities Australia estimates almost 100,000 Chinese students enrolled in Australia are currently held up in their home country or a third country as universities hold their orientation weeks and with lectures due to start on most campuses next week.

Facing a major cost burden

At the University of Sydney, international students from China make up 24 per cent, or about 17,000, of the 71,000-strong student population.

Students walk around the University of Sydney campus on a rainy day.

PHOTO: The University of Sydney received $500 million in fees from Chinese students in 2017, a report says. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

The university said it understood about 14,000 of those remained overseas, based on information from the Federal Government

If the university has to start reimbursing fees or cancelling enrolments, the cost could be very high.

Here’s how the coronavirus travel restrictions will affect you

Travelling to China soon? Have friends and family in China planning a trip to Australia? Here’s everything you need to know.

According to a Centre for Independent Studies report published in August, the University of Sydney received more in fees from Chinese students in 2017 than any other university with total of $500 million, equivalent to one fifth of its total annual revenue.

The university has offered online supported learning courses and offered the possibility of delaying some courses.

At the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, 5,000 students from China are enrolled, but some 80 per cent of those have been affected by the travel ban.

The institute was offering the students remote study options and flexibility around commencement, withdrawal and deferral of courses.

Frustrated students fear ‘huge’ impact

At Curtin University, the travel ban has stopped 62 per cent of its Chinese students — a total of about 850 — from returning to Perth.

Chemical engineering PhD student Yao, who asked for his surname not to be used, said his friend was one of them

Yao stands on a footpath. A garden and other students are in the background.

.PHOTO: Curtin University student Yao says a fellow PhD student is still stuck in China. (ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

“He tried to get into Australia but he was blocked in the airport,” he said.

It could also delay Yao’s studies, because the two student were supposed to do practical work together.

“It doesn’t make sense, because he’s absolutely okay,” Yao said.

Coronavirus recession?

The economic fallout globally from the coronavirus will be far worse than SARS now that China is so critical to the global, and especially Australian, economy, writes Ian Verrender.

Curtin vice-chancellor Deborah Terry said course work and videos of lectures had been placed online.

“For each of those students it will be distressing and it will be causing them concern as to how they stay on top of their studies,” Professor Terry said.

“So that is why we are making sure we do communicate with each and every one of them and outline what might be possible for them,

But Yao said that would not necessarily help him and his friend, because as chemical engineering PhD students, most of their work together was in the laboratory.

“I think if it goes on for a month or two months, [it will have] a huge effect on us,” he said.

High school students also missing out

Several weeks into the school term, Perth’s Aranmore Catholic College still has several students stuck in China.

It has been using a distance learning program called the Virtual School Network, first developed to help with teaching in regional areas, to keep the students up to date.

Year 11 student Scott was able to join his advanced maths class by live video link from Guangzhou.

A child's image is projected onto a whiteboard. It looks like a livestream. A woman seems to be speaking to him.

PHOTO: Scott can communicate with his teacher via live stream from Guangzhou. (ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

He was able to ask questions directly to the teacher or type out his queries during the class.

The school’s principal, Declan Tanham, said it was still a critical delay for senior students preparing for exams.

“Year 12 students only do three terms and then they go into a revision phase,” he said.

“It’s really only 30 weeks of actual instruction they receive, so it becomes quite critical when they’re not here for whatever reason.”

China’s internet firewall poses challenge

One of the challenges both universities and secondary institutions face in delivering distance education is how to overcome China’s internet firewall.

What you need to know

Here’s a rundown of all the facts about coronavirus, and how you can make sure you’re protected.

International Education Association of Australia chief executive Phil Honeywood said some educational institutions were going to third-party companies for help to upload content online in China.

“Universities are finding they can pitch into China, via third-party companies that have contracts into China, and by their own learning management systems,” he said.

Mr Tanham and ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt said student internet know-how had also helped.

“The kids are very clever and they’ve found side ways of bypassing any difficulties we’ve had,” Mr Tanham said.

Universities and schools acknowledged there would be a substantial financial hit if fee-paying Chinese students could not return soon.

Woman wearing mask wheeling suitcase on tarmac at night.

PHOTO: The travel ban prevents people coming from mainland China to Australia unless they are Australian citizens or permanent residents. (ABC News: Bill Birtles)

“If they’re not able to study this year, they won’t be paying fees to the university,” Curtin University’s Professor Terry said.

Professor Schmidt told the ABC’s AM program this week that students could worry about paying their fees later, once the crisis had eased.

He said the ANU had modelled the impact of economic shocks before and it would be “manageable but not fun”.

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