Hopes are high student visa changes will bolster flagging inner-city rents and top up workforces as Australian capitals figure among the most popular places in the world to study.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a series of strategies this week to attract 150,000 students back to the country as quickly as possible, including waiving visa application fees and relaxing work limitations.
The incentives were made to boost critical work shortages across the country and would also support hard-hit inner city rental markets and student accommodation providers.
This came as Melbourne ranked sixth and Sydney eighth in the 2022 QS Best Student Cities index, the first time the 164 eligible cities had been rated since the pandemic.
Brisbane ranked 29th on the list while Adelaide and Perth were equal 35th, Canberra 37th and the Gold Coast 89th.
Best student cities in 2022
|2022 Rank||City||Country||2019 Rank|
^Source: QS Best Student Cities, QS Top Universities
Although the new ranking was positive news for national universities, the inner-city rental market has already suffered a big blow—rents fell between 8 to 20 per cent in inner Melbourne.
Sydney’s inner city rent also dropped, around 3.1 per cent between March 2020 and October 2021, according to Corelogic.
Meanwhile, the Savills Australian Student Accommodation 2021 report showed that in early December operators had 50 per cent booking rates, a significant increase since border relaxation.
Savills Australia operational capital markets director Paul Savits said 2021 was an extremely challenging year but there was optimism immediately prior to the Omicron wave.
“As rental markets continue to tighten, and become more expensive overall than pre-Covid, alongside the historic undersupply of student accommodation, Savills expects the prompt recovery of purpose built student accommodation occupancy and rents,” Savits said.
“The residential rental markets in several capital cities have bounced back from a period of softness in 2020 with decreasing vacancy rates and increasing rental levels.
“Lower supply levels due to owner occupiers buying apartments and limited completions of new apartments has led to constraints in the market.
“This trend will continue into 2022 and will be exacerbated by increasing levels of demand from students and non-students for rental accommodation once the international border opens.”
The prime minister said students would have eight weeks from January 19 to enter Australia and take advantage of the visa application fee waiver.
“There are around 150,000 students who have visas who we are encouraging to come back to be there for the start of their university or college year, and that is a thank you to them for coming back and continuing to choose Australia,” Morrison said.
“But we also want them to come here and be able to be filling some of these critical workforce shortages, particularly those who are working and being trained in health care, aged care, those types of sectors.”