Australian state proposes ‘mid-year’ return for overseas students

New South Wales plan, which requires federal approval, would allow for 250 arrivals a fortnight

六月 10, 2021
Sydney Opera House, Australia illustrating NSW plan to allow return of international students
Source: iStock

Australia’s biggest state has lodged a formal proposal to bring international students back into the country from “mid-year”, raising pressure on other states to follow suit – and on Canberra to approve the deal.

New South Wales treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the plan would enable 250 overseas students each fortnight to come to Sydney, where they would stay in purpose-built student accommodation “adhering to the same quarantine requirements as all incoming travellers”.

This would be achieved at “no cost to taxpayers” and without using quarantine places reserved for returning Australian residents. Mr Perrottet said the proposal was supported by the health and police services, and that incoming students would be triaged by health officials.

He said the first quarantine site had already been chosen, “with contract negotiations well advanced”.

“International education is our second most valuable export and we need to do what we can to help students return and revive this sector as quickly as possible,” he said.

“Typically, we have more than 250,000 international students studying in NSW each year and they directly supported over 95,000 local jobs prior to the pandemic. If we don’t act fast, students will turn to other overseas destinations and it could take the sector decades to recover.”

The financial accounts of nine of the state’s 10 universities were published in late May, with six registering deficits. The worst-hit institutions – Macquarie University, the University of Wollongong (UOW) and the University of Technology Sydney, which recorded shortfalls of around A$50 million (£27 million) each – lost a combined A$138 million in revenue from onshore foreign students, compared to their 2019 takings.

In a statement, Wollongong welcomed Mr Perrottet’s plan. “UOW joins with the NSW government and the rest of the higher education sector in urging the commonwealth government to give this proposal urgent and favourable consideration,” the university said.

The convenor of the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, Western Sydney University head Barney Glover, said the plan had been months in the making. He said many students were “diligently studying offshore” in hopes of finishing their courses in Australia.

“This programme has carefully considered the personal, social and academic aspects of our students to ensure they successfully resume their studies and rejoin NSW’s vibrant multicultural community as soon as possible,” he said.

Council of International Students Australia president Belle Lim said the announcement sent a “great message” that “there is hope that things will return to normal”.

The Australian Technology Network of universities commended the “detailed and considered” proposal. “Today’s announcement means we are closer to welcoming back international students to our universities and we will continue to work with governments across Australia to ensure it happens,” said executive director Luke Sheehy.

The South Australian government last month lodged a proposal to allow in 160 foreign students at a time, quarantining them in accommodation originally built for flight school students at Parafield Airport in Adelaide’s north. Both plans require federal government sign-off.



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