Australia is bracing for a significant economic and reputational damage to universities with 100,000 Chinese students stranded overseas.
The coronavirus outbreak has left a large cohort of international students banned from entering the country as the academic year begins.
Estimates put the potential cost of the virus at $6 billion to the sector, which relies heavily on Chinese students.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan is hopeful the ban will be lifted in coming weeks, but insists the decision will be based on medical advice.
"There's no doubt that if the ban stays in place for this year this will have a significant impact on the Australian economy and will be a significant hit in terms of jobs, and potentially our international education reputation," he told ABC radio on Monday.
Mr Tehan praised universities for quickly getting online programs up and running for international students.
The Australian National University has put in place 650 online courses to help most of its 4000 students stranded overseas.
ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt said he was trying to imagine what it would be like to be a student stuck in Beijing.
"Do I want to sit and twiddle my thumbs? No. I want to actually do my coursework while I'm being quarantined or not allowed to leave the country," he told the ABC.
He said the economic impacts were manageable, but not fun.
"We knew that some sort of economic shock like this could eventuate," Professor Schmidt said.
Mr Tehan said universities were well placed to weather the economic damage.
"One of the things that gives me a great level of confidence is that this sector is very well managed and well run when it comes to their finances."
Australian Associated Press