University of Melbourne posts $147 million surplus but says tough times not over

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Meanwhile, new research from Australian National University reveals many domestic university students actually did better financially during the pandemic than if COVID-19 had never reached Australia.

International students, on the other hand, suffered longer financial hardship. Overseas students lost their jobs in large numbers at the beginning of the pandemic, but unlike domestic students received no JobKeeper support.

For domestic students, JobKeeper “often paid more than their wages”, a report by Andrew Norton, ANU professor in the practice of higher education policy, states.

The end of lockdowns late last year also triggered a jobs boom for domestic and international tertiary students, the report found, with a record 72.5 per cent of students aged 24 or under employed in December last year. This was up from 65 per cent in December 2019, before the pandemic.

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But Dr Norton warned in his report that the favorable jobs market for tertiary students was unlikely to last.

“Temporary migrants will return to Australia and tighter macroeconomic policy will reduce demand for labour,” he wrote.

“But in the short term, at least, tertiary student finances should remain better than before COVID-19.”

Tertiary students are taking up jobs in large numbers as drivers and store workers, reflecting the shift from retail shopping and cafe and restaurant dining to online ordering and home delivery, and as health workers in fields such as vaccination work.

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