Absent Chinese international students return to Deakin

February 14, 2023 BY

Deakin University's Geelong waterfront campus. Photo: TOM ROSS

DEAKIN University is expecting a modest increase in the number of international students returning to campus for 2023 after the Chinese government announced in January it would no longer recognise degrees obtained online from foreign institutions.

An estimated 50,000 Chinese nationals with student visas for Australia were initially told they risked losing their degree if they did not return to their overseas campus by semester one, effectively giving them a few weeks’ notice to make their journey here.

Deakin University’s chief international officer John Molony said the Chinese government issued a subsequent clarifying statement that said exemptions to the rule would be granted to students who could not secure a visa, find a flight, or accommodation in time.

“We are still working our way through exactly what that means, because the exemption process requires a letter explaining the situation of the students from the university, and we’re happy to provide those letters, but that announcement is only a couple of days old, so we’re still seeking information about what information exactly we need to provide,” he said on Wednesday last week.

Student accommodation at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus. Photo: SUPPLIED


“We knew the announcement was coming sooner or later, and yes it turned out to be sooner and with very little notice.”

Deakin estimates that around 400 Chinese students will be on campus within coming weeks as semester one commences, however Mr Molony believes the easing of China’s zero-COVID policy and the re-opening of its borders after three years is stimulating interest among other potential students.

“With the announcement of the opening of the outbound border we’re seeing great interest with Chinese students to come and study with us on campus,” he said.

A large concern for the expected tens of thousands of Chinese international students that are expected to make their way to Australia is how they will be accommodated at such short notice, particularly given the housing shortage across much of the country, but Mr Molony said Deakin is well situated to deal with the influx.

Deakin University Pro Vice-Chancellor and International Vice President John Molony. Photo: SUPPLIED


“We’ve developed a lot of properties over the last five years, so we have a lot of stock and it is reassuring at times like this, particularly when rental markets are so challenging.”

When Australia first announced it was re-opening its borders D-eakin expected it would likely take until 2024 before pre-pandemic numbers of international students returned, however Mr Molony said that process has been faster than expected.

“In terms of applications and offers, we are at pre-pandemic levels for many countries, not China, but we are well above in many other source countries,” he said.

“This is probably a best case scenario in terms of reengagement with students….it’s about as good as we could have hoped for.”