Australian Outlook

In this section

The Future of International Education in Australia

24 Jun 2021
By Professor Helen Bartlett and Rachel Colaso
The Great Court University of Queensland. Source: John

The impact of COVID-19 on the international student market was swift and unexpected. The pipeline effects will continue into 2022 and 2023.

Australian international education is a highly successful global brand and contributed more than $40 billion to the Australian economy in 2019. Despite this success, concerns were being raised about an overreliance by education providers on selected countries for student enrolments and international student fees as a key source of revenue. With the onset of the pandemic, in the university sector alone, there were 210,000 fewer international students in 2021 than expected; university revenues declined by $1.8 billion; and almost 164,000 students remained stranded overseas.

While efforts are being made to bring students back through a number of pilot schemes, challenging questions remain about the future recovery of international education in Australia. How will the changing geopolitical landscape impact on diversification? Is there an optimum number or proportion of international students? Have students’ expectations changing as a result of COVID? Should universities focus more on growing international student enrolments online, rather than onshore? Are different policy or regulatory settings needed to mitigate risk in the future? Will Australia regain its reputation as a destination for international education? How might a new international education strategy help Australia navigate and reset its direction post-COVID?


Professor Helen Bartlett commenced as the third Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) on 17 August 2020. She has had an international career in higher education, having held various leadership roles in universities across Australia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Prior to joining USC, Professor Bartlett was Vice-Chancellor and President of Federation University Australia from 2017 to 2020, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Monash University Malaysia from 2013 to 2017, and Pro Vice-Chancellor and President of Monash University’s Gippsland Campus from 2008 to 2012. She became an Emeritus Professor of Monash University in 2017 and of Federation University Australia in 2021.

A research specialist in health and aged care, Professor Bartlett’s career includes inaugural Director at the Australasian Centre on Ageing at the University of Queensland, the Oxford Centre for Health Care Research and Development and the Oxford Dementia Centre at Oxford Brookes University.

Professor Bartlett holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Science (Public Policy) and a PhD from the University of Bath. She is an expert member of the Australian Government Council for International Education, past Chair of the Regional Universities Network (2019-2021) and served as a member of the Australian Government’s National Priorities and Industry Linkage Fund Working Group in 2020. She currently serves on the Boards of the Thompson Institute and the Sunshine Coast Lightning Pty Ltd.

Rachel Colaso has over 25 years’ experience across the international education industry including admissions, aid and development, program leader and business development. She has comprehensive and cross sectorial expertise over diverse areas of the education industry. During her career Rachel has worked in developing marketing and student recruitment initiatives across diverse countries including, South America, Middle East, Europe, Subcontinent and Asia. Rachel is currently working as a consultant for the education industry with expertise in stakeholder engagement, marketing, business development and communications. In her former  role as Head of Education she led Study Brisbane, working in partnership with Brisbane city and Brisbane’s education sector to attract international students to Brisbane, enhance international student’s experience, market Brisbane as a leading student destination as well as provide opportunities for graduating students to retain a connection with the city. Rachel has mentored for the Australia government’s Pacific Women’s Leadership Initiative and was a member of the State Minister’s International Education and Training Advisory Group (IETAG), Rachel holds memberships of the International Education Association of Australia and the Asia Pacific Institute of Professional Learning.

This is a recording of an event held by AIIA Queensland on 22 June 2021. To register for upcoming events, CLICK HERE.