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Struggling international students to get state government lifeline

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About 250,000 international students came to Victoria to study last year, contributing $12.6 billion to state revenue, according to government figures.

The government fears the sector will suffer a $5.8 billion hit this financial year. The number of foreign students in Victoria has plummeted to an estimated 150,000.

A report by Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute this month equated the scale of the interruption to the international student market to losing the car manufacturing industry every six months.

Victoria is the largest market in Australia for international students, with $3.06 billion flowing to the state’s universities in 2018, which accounted for 35 per cent of total foreign student revenue nationwide.

La Trobe University announced its own $12 million relief package for students on Tuesday, including $6.8 million for international students.

Deputy vice-chancellor Jessica Vanderlelie said the support package recognised the hardship students are facing, with many losing jobs or access to family support because of the virus response.

“This crisis has been acutely felt amongst our international students and I am pleased to say that $6.8 million has been allocated to directly support our international students,” Professor Vanderlelie said.

“The university, along with the rest of the sector, continues to lobby the federal, Victorian and local governments to step up and support our students, particularly international students.”

Deakin University has previously committed $20 million, the largest relief package of any tertiary institution in the country.

The Morrison government has resisted calls from within the university sector to provide financial relief to international students.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this month that overseas visa holders were “not held here compulsorily”, and if they were unable to support themselves “there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries”.

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