China-Australia Education Relationship: How is it Changing?

The Republic of China is the largest trading partner of Australia by a huge margin. Reportedly, most of the education business between China and Australia is declining, and changing attitudes towards Australian education seem evident during the past year.

A brief history of Australia-China Education Relationship

International education is Australia’s fourth-largest export bringing an annual income worth around $38 billion and supports about 240,000 jobs. 

Prior to the pandemic, the Australia-China education relationship was rising. Australia was a key destination for Chinese international students. A 2019 report by the Council for International Education China Working Group claiming the relationship was ‘positive and fruitful’. 

However, in 2021, the China’s Education Ministry issued a warning to China discouraging studying in Australia as a result of anti-Chinese protests in the country.

What’s changed with the outbreak of COVID-19? 

Soon after the call for a coronavirus inquiry in April by the Australian Prime Minister, the bilateral ties between the two countries even worsened, resulting in China holding trade moves against Australia.

In addition, Morrison’s anti-China policy made a hostile situation for Chinese international students. As a result, Australia’s image was poorly portrayed as unsafe, deteriorating relations between countries. 

China’s Ministry of Education also urged education agents based in China to not recommend Australia to international students, based on the anti-Chinese attacks in Australia.

How will this affect Australian Universities?

The importance of the education sector to the Australian economy cannot be denied. The fiscal year 2020 experienced a decline of 14.2 percent export income from China. The University of Melbourne has one of the highest levels of international student enrolments – including Chinese. Its financial results for 2020 reported having decreased the profit to 89 percent as compared to the previous year. 

The enrollment has also declined 10 percent than the previous year, and 22 percent than the pre-COVID period.

Without the enrolment of Chinese international students, Australian universities will suffer. China is also the biggest source of international students in Australia. The data released by the Australian Department of Home Affairs shows that more than 220,000 mainland Chinese students were registered in Australia in 2020.  


The conflict between the two countries has a significant impact on the education business in both countries over the past year. International enrollment dropped drastically in 2020 due to the pandemic. Tensions between nations will continue to affect International Education, even if the borders open.

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