As vaccination rates in Australia continue to rise, the government is preparing to welcome international students again. Because of the federal framework, several states and territories, in addition to the Covid-19 National Plan reaction, have developed their own plans and strategies.
Although some governments take a more cautious approach, New South Wales has stated that international student arrivals will not be required to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated with TGA-approved vaccines.
Western Australia, on the other hand, has announced that international students will be allowed to return in Semester 1 of 2022, subject to the state obtaining an 80 per cent double vaccination rate, as outlined in the state’s Safe Transition Plan. Students must be properly immunized with a TGA-approved vaccine and receive a G2G Pass before arriving.
Harlene Hayne, the vice-chancellor of Curtin University, hailed the Safe Transition Plan, which will begin in Semester 1 of 2022, as a “vital step in safeguarding the vibrancy of our multicultural university campuses.”
“Curtin together with Study Perth, the Western Australian International Education Advisory, the other WA universities, and the state government, is working to ensure that the return of international students runs smoothly and safely,” she said.
“Despite the hardships since the onset of the pandemic, many international students have continued to show their trust and commitment in Curtin, by continuing their studies online. We want to thank those students in particular, and we are excited to welcome them back to our campuses soon.”
CEO of StudyPerth, Phil Payne, added, “Like other states and territories, WA expects to welcome small numbers of international students for Semester 1, 2022, but due to global flight availability and visa processing times, it will be impossible to return international students at scale for several months, so StudyPerth and the WA international education sector is hoping for a complete normalization of international student arrivals for Semester 2, 2022.”
Fully vaccinated and tested travellers will be permitted to enter WA without quarantine after the state hits its 90 per cent immunization objective, according to Payne. Consequently, after South Australia hits a 90 per cent vaccination objective, it will welcome fully vaccinated international students without the need for quarantine.
According to stakeholders, the goal should be met by late December 2021. When asked regarding Study Adelaide’s strategy for recouping revenue lost owing to travel constraints over the previous 20 months, Kent said the organization, including its members, is stepping up marketing efforts in important areas.
Queensland is continuing to take a cautious approach, owing to reduced vaccination rates and the requirement for returning international students to quarantine under the Queensland Student Arrivals Plan. Beginning in January 2022, about 250 international students will be brought in every two weeks, with students who require face-to-face learning and practicals, particularly in medical science and healthcare, being given priority.
Queensland politicians have hailed the regional quarantine facility at Wellcamp as a strategic asset and “a very significant piece of the puzzle.” The federal government has officially endorsed Victoria’s arrivals plan, which could see international students returning to Victorian institutions at a rate of 120 per week by the end of the year. However, according to the ACT’s student return plan, fully-vaccinated overseas students returning in 2022 will not be needed to quarantine.
“Pilot projects have been announced to return international students to New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland, and I am increasingly confident that we will see the return of international students in larger numbers in 2022,” she noted.
Universities Australia’s deputy chief executive Anne-Marie Lansdown is “optimistic that a corner has been turned.” Likewise, the Northern Territory is preparing to present a plan to the federal government. If authorized, the scheme might allow up to 180 students to enter Darwin in January 2022 through one or two flights.
The Northern Territory is anxiously expecting the return of overseas students, with authorities at the territory’s lone university, Charles Darwin University, showing dismay about the university’s and local economy’s ripple effect. The state of Tasmania is implementing the federal government’s National Plan for international student repatriation.
The University of Tasmania, the state’s only university, intends to welcome overseas students in 2022 if all goes as planned. Certain industry experts have voiced worries that Australia’s absence of a coherent and coordinated approach could send an imprecise or confusing message to current and potential offshore students.
The International Education Association of Australia’s CEO, Phil Honeywood, stated his worries on this issue. “There are many nations around the globe that have federal systems of government. Whether it be Canada or India, we find that their second tiers of government, at the state or province level, have wide-ranging powers.
“We are hearing that Victoria state will have at least one flight of returning students back here before Christmas. As these two states start to see international students arrive, we are confident that this will build momentum so that other state and territory governments will bring good numbers of our very patient international students back throughout January and February.”
Other stakeholders in the sector agree with Honeywood’s point of view. Nick Klomp, chair of the Regional Universities Network and vice-chancellor of CQ University, gave his thoughts on the topic, calling for a more cohesive approach by states and territories.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, regional Australia has struggled to find competent labour, and a drop in overseas students numbers has exacerbated the problem. Klomp emphasized that “the contribution of our international students” makes regional communities, businesses, and universities “better.”
Before the pandemic, the global education business was worth approximately $40 billion — 40% of that is student fees, but the remaining 60% is an economic activity within the Australian economy, according to Simon Finn, CEO of Independent Higher Education Australia.
The hospitality sector, like regional Australia, is “desperate” to see overseas students return, who play a key part in the country’s employment while studying at the same time, according to Vicki Thomson, chief executive of The Group of Eight.
“Covid and border closures have taken a toll on universities, business, and industry,” she said. With some 30,000 students at Go8 institutions currently offshore, the group “is hopeful 2022 will mark the beginning of an exciting new era for international education”, the country’s fourth-biggest export, Thomson said.