Treating online education as a cheap alternative to lectures will be a mistake. At first universities will probably have to allow more preparation time and invest more in training and technology.
The focus on rankings has been more a symptom than a cause of the challenge Australian universities face, namely a structural change in their revenue base.
If one in five international students don't re-enrol, the loss of revenue would plunge half of all Australian universities into budget deficit or financial turmoil.
A collapse in revenue and a lack of government support have led to university workforces being decimated to cut costs. This presents a number of longer-term risks for universities and the nation.
Australian universities face a huge revenue hit from falling international student numbers due to COVID-19 and tensions with China. Some institutions should consider merging rather than downsizing.
For every $1 lost in university tuition fees, there is another $1.15 lost in the broader economy. This means loss of university revenue can cost the Australian economy more than $40 billion by 2023.
The University of Sydney took in about A$750 million from international students in 2017. Two-thirds of that – about $500 million – came from international students from China.