Australia Continues to Struggle Bringing Int’l Students Back

The Australian government is failing again to bring international students back, continuing to damage Australia’s reputation for education and crippling revenue into universities and colleges, reports.

The Chief Executive of the International Education Association of Australia, Phil Honeywood, argued that many reasons were delaying the return of international students. Still, public anger could stand in the way.

“If we forsake a third academic year, then a whole pipeline of full-fee-paying students will be lost to other countries. Obviously, the political optics of having Australian citizens not able to return while even small cohorts of overseas students can come into the country would be problematic,” Honeywood said.

The Education Department’s spokeswoman noted the government is discussing with all Australian states and territories to enable the return of international students “when conditions allow.”

Protecting the health of Australians and bringing Australians home, especially vulnerable Australians, remains the government’s priority,” she said.

Last month, South Australia became the first state to receive the green light from the federal government to implement its plan to return students to the state. According to the plan, 160 students would be quarantined at Parafield Airport and be obliged to carry COVID-19 tests.

On the other hand, international students are not included in the federal government’s arrival caps and have their travel arranged on chartered flights and quarantine finished in student-specific facilities.

The director of The Lygon Group, an advisory company representing the international student sector, Jeffrey Smart, said that the approval for the NSW plan was “not going to happen any time soon” but pointed out that increasing levels of frustration over prolonged changes of plans for their return.

“It’s just not the right message to send to international students that we keep changing our minds about whether they can return or not. We need to level with them that we are waiting until the whole country is vaccinated before we reopen our borders. That will happen in x-months’ time, and then you will be welcome back,” Smart said.

He also added that other countries were adjusting their policies thoroughly to ensure international students were welcomed.

About 30 percent or about 160,000 student visa holders were off the shores of Australia as of January 10, 2021. Since the borders closed last year, several “safe corridor” deals offer to return international students to most states and territories. Still, only one in the Northern Territory made it, in which 63 students arrived in November last year, has reached fruition.

The university sector can lose up to $3.8 billion in revenue by the end of 2021, with billions more predicted to lose in the coming years as the number of international students number is plummeting. In addition, there have been about 17,300 people left jobless, with universities continuing to cut staff.

The country recently is said to introduce a ‘green light, red light’ international border system, which allows vaccinated individuals to return to the country in order to attend their studies which have been put at a halt for a year now or have been held only remotely.

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