What international students want on Omicron


They are looking for clear, intentional, empathetic messaging from all levels of government

Australia’s international education sector has plenty of worries heading into 2022, but perversely Omicron is not one of them

We are now living with the virus.  Any health and safety “advantage” we had has been wiped out.  Every major competitor destination nation is dealing with Omicron.  Australia is now neither “more” or “less” safe than any other study destination.

What our competitor destinations have going for them in the face of this variant is prior action to ensure that international students know they are welcome, and policies and messaging in place to sustain their competitiveness.

In our research – following the conversations international students are having on social media – two things are apparent:

* they remain concerned about the practicalities of coming to study in Australia

* they are looking for clear, intentional, empathetic messaging from all levels of government.

Students are watching closely what is happening in Australia as they have done throughout the pandemic.

They are largely happy and keen to follow public health requirements and advice. But without clear messaging we continue to risk students choosing a competitor nation based not on COVID case numbers or open borders but on how well students are able to access and understand information about the pandemic response and what it means for them.

Managing uncertainty means providing clear, consistent, and honest information.  Omicron shines a bright light on ensuring we do not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

In one sense, something far more consequential to the sector’s recovery happens this year: elections at the federal level, and in Victoria and South Australia.  Whoever wins government in each jurisdiction will be dealing with the hangover of the last two years.  Time for the sector to be preparing sensible policy-asks of politicians of all persuasions.  Our recovery depends on it.

Jeffrey Smart is director & co-founder of the Lygon Group. Angela Lehmann is its head of research