Australia has reportedly lost over 100,000 international students in the last financial year. Despite that, there is still no indication when pilot schemes — which would enable international students’ return to Australia — would begin.
The latest news on pilot plans to facilitate international students’ return to Australia
NSW pilot plan
Previously, New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that the state is pausing its pilot plan to facilitate international students’ return to Australia while the state remains in lockdown. The plan would see 250 students flown on charter flights every fortnight. The Greater Sydney lockdown will push back any plans for international students’ return to Australia until August 28, at least.
Victoria’s pilot plan
In response to SBS Punjabi’s enquiry, a state government spokesperson said Victoria is working with the Commonwealth and education providers to welcome international students when it is safe and reasonable. “When finalised, our Student Arrivals Plan will guide a staged return of students, and we’ll have more to say when we are in a position to do so,” the spokesperson was quoted saying by the portal.
South Australia’s pilot plan
In June, South Australia premier Steven Marshall confirmed that its pilot plan to bring international students back to the state was approved by the federal government. According to the plan, up to 160 students will be flown into the state and will quarantine at facilities at Parafield Airport. Marshall said that the plan would not impact returning Australians as it will be done outside the current caps, while institutions and students will bear the costs of flights and quarantine.
A spokesperson from the state government told SBS Punjabi that the South Australian government is working through the plan’s logistics which meets all Australian COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
“The South Australian Government remains committed to the return of international students to continue their education journey as soon as it is practicable and safe to do so, and international students are advised to monitor correspondence from their education institutions for information,” the spokesperson said in a statement to SBS Punjabi.
(In the latest development, universities are reportedly unwilling to move forward due to high ancillary cost, although a stakeholder stated they are still “working towards the second half of the year.”)
Uptick in vaccinations before international students’ return to Australia
Australian federal education minister Alan Tudge had indicated during a Times Higher Education event that Australia would have to vaccinate 70% to 80% of its adult population before considering reopening of borders to allow a capped entry of international students. Tudge said the vaccine ramp-up would lead to an uptick in student intake and commencements, which could happen by Christmas.
“Now, once we start to get to that position of having more open borders, I think that we are still well-positioned to be able to bring international students back and have our commencement numbers start to accelerate again quite rapidly,” Tudge was quoted saying.
While NSW and South Australia have received approval for their pilot plans to bring international students back, Victoria appears to be behind. In a separate report, Federal MP for Bruce and the Parliamentary Friends of International Education co-chair Julian Hill told SBS Hindi: “Different states and territories have at different times proposed pilots.”
“The Victorian government has also been in discussions, I understand, as most states and territories have. But ultimately, it comes back to the same problem. There is not enough safe purpose-built quarantine,” he said.
Hill said there are many student graduates and 485 visa holders who are stranded offshore. He added that he has been calling on the government to allow international students’ return to Australia, have their two years of post-study work rights and have their fair chance at life in the country.