Universities are calling for government support amid warnings the sector could lose more than 21,000 jobs in the next six months as COVID-19 restrictions hit the economy.
The peak body representing Australia's 39 universities said they would be less able to contribute to national recovery following the pandemic without help from the government.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said it was clear there would be a significant decline in second semester international student enrolments due to the virus.
"Government support is more important than ever," she said.
A conservative estimate of the revenue decline to hit the sector was between $3 billion to $4.6 billion, Ms Jackson said.
"Universities estimate that more than 21,000 jobs are at risk in the next six months, and more after that."
Ms Jackson said government support would help universities contribute to the post-pandemic recovery.
Universities had also started hardship funds to support the students affected by job losses, Ms Jackson said.
"These funds have received thousands of applications from students who, through no fault of their own, have lost jobs due to the pandemic," she said.
"We are asking the government to join with us in supporting these students."
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