The New South Wales (NSW) government is planing an alternative hotel quarantine programme for international students to return to Australia. It has advertised an expression of interest, which closes on April 12. “The return of international students as soon as possible is vital for retaining jobs in our education sector, and for the economy more broadly,” it said.
NSW government confirmed that “International education is our second-largest export, generating 14.6 billion Australian dollars in exports annually before the pandemic and supporting nearly 100,000 jobs in NSW. We estimate in 2021 we have already lost one-third of our international student base.”
The government added that returning international students must not displace returning Australian citizens and permanent residents and must not overload stretched health and police resources. “A solution is required to identify a manageable, ongoing number of regular arrivals outside of the 3,000 per weekly cap that would sit alongside the current quarantine hotel model applying the same protocols and processes and led by NSW police and health,” it added.
The advertisement invites eligible purpose-built student accommodation providers based in the Sydney CBD or its fringe to submit an expression of interest to house international students coming into NSW for the 14-day quarantine period.
Plan is to create an alternative quarantine pathway for international students’ to return to Australia
Despite the announcement, not all international students were buoyed by the message, taking to Twitter to express their frustrations over flip-flop policies regarding their return to Australia. Many have been left in the dark over when they can return to Australia in the past year, while proposed pilot programmes to facilitate their return have been shelved. Charles Darwin University was the only university in Australia that had successfully piloted a programme to bring in a small number of international students last November.
Previously, Australian Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said he is “increasingly hopeful” that most international students could return to Australia by Semester 1 of 2022 with vaccine rollouts underway. He also called for Australian universities to improve their online delivery or hybrid learning models as well as provide different price offerings for their full programmes and micro-credentials.
International students could be the first cohort of temporary visa holders to return to Australia in time for the start of the second semester in July, as universities submit plans to the government to facilitate their return, under strict health and safety guidelines.
With billions in revenue riding on the return of international students, Universities Australia which represents the country’s 39 major universities, is leading the effort to pave way for the return of nearly 120,000 students currently stranded offshore due to the pandemic.
As part of the initiative, UA (Universities Australia) has submitted a “comprehensive framework” to the federal government proposing a “gradual and safe” return of overseas students to the country. UA Chief Executive Catriona Jackson told “Universities and students need to be ready when the government decides to relax border restrictions.” “The gradual return of international students into Australia requires careful coordination between governments, universities, health and immigration authorities. Guiding principles ensure that safety and community welfare come first,” said Ms Jackson.
According to the proposal which was submitted to the federal government for consideration by the national cabinet last week, all incoming students will be required to undergo health checks prior to their arrival and mandatory quarantine after arrival into the country, reported The Australian.
Ms Jackson added that the universities will have a clear idea of the “ground rules” once the government decides to lift the travel ban for overseas students. “Once the Government has agreed on the basic parameters of a safe return framework, universities will have a clearer idea of the ground rules, and further, more detailed discussions will take place,” she added.
The Australian government is under increasing pressure to exempt international students from the current coronavirus-induced travel ban, to get the country’s lucrative international education sector back on its feet.