Visa Crunch

250 students to be brought back per fortnight to New South Wales from December, says Australian government

The government has announced that 500 overseas students would arrive in New South Wales in December as part of a Study NSW trial program.

The Commonwealth cabinet has approved plans to return students on chartered flights, which will be paid for by the students, before quarantining for 14 days at a Covid-safe building run by Scape. The Scape Redfern student housing complex in Sydney can seat up to 650 students, but the first phase is expected to bring back 500 foreign students to NSW by the end of 2021, with 250 students returning every two weeks. “The foreign education sector supports thousands of jobs across NSW, and I’m happy that NSW is leading the way with overseas students returning to our shores,” said John Barilaro, deputy premier and minister for regional New South Wales, industry and trade.

International students will be allowed to return if vaccination rates have reached 70-80 percent of the Australian population, according to the federal government. Alan Tudge, Australia’s minister for education and youth, recently stated that the country was “dangerously near” to meeting key vaccine targets. Barilaro stated, “The safety of the people of NSW is important, and we are not taking any chances.” “All participants will be completely vaccinated with a TGA-approved Covid-19 vaccine, and strict quarantine protocols will be in place. “Most importantly, any Australian citizen or resident seeking to return home would not be penalized as a result of this plan.” The relevance of the foreign education sector to the local economy was emphasized by state politicians.

“International education is critical in connecting NSW to the rest of the world,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said. “Rebuilding the industry, which was worth $14.6 billion to NSW in 2019, is a critical aspect of our efforts as we adopt a range of steps to revive our economy.” Over 57,000 students are currently studying or working abroad, with many “desperate to return, resume their studies, part-time jobs, reconnect with friends, and continue their journey in our world-leading institutions,” according to Stuart Ayres, Minister for jobs, investment, tourism, and Western Sydney.

“The NSW state government’s decision to finally put its student return plan into action has given Australia’s struggling foreign education sector a major morale boost,” he added. “However, there will be certain roadblocks in the implementation stage. “We all want foreign students back on campus, taking advantage of the unique learning, work, and life experiences that only studying in Australia can provide,” said Belle Lim, president of the Council of International Students Australia.

Australian Catholic University, Macquarie University, The University of Newcastle, The University of Sydney, UNSW, UTS, University of Wollongong, and Western Sydney University, as well as independent providers International College of Management Sydney, Kaplan, Navitas, RedHill, and Study Group, have all signed up for the pilot plan. Universities Australia applauded the “well-constructed pilot strategy” for international students’ gradual repatriation.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson stated, “NSW university leaders have been working hard with the NSW state government and the Commonwealth on measures to securely return students for 18 months already.” South Australia, Western Australia, and Victoria have all been developing proposals to reintroduce international students to Australia. Due to an increase in Covid-19 cases in August, plans were put on hold. NSW had wanted to start a student return trial program in the middle of 2021.

Universities Australia has previously warned that closed borders could cost the country’s universities $2 billion in 2021. According to the release, participating education providers will contact students to progress an expression of interest for the pilot scheme.

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