The federal government has been urged to consider Victoria’s proposal for international students’ return, whereas the Education Minister, Alan Tudge advises the government to be “very cautious” considering the proposal, as Coronavirus takes the lives of thousands worldwide on a daily basis.
Minister Tudge confirmed that Victoria is the first state to present a plan for the return of international students while also saying that “we’ll carefully look at it,” Erudera.com reports.
“But I want to say that with COVID ravaging throughout the world at the moment, we need to be very cautious about approving any new quarantine plans for anyone other than returning Australians,” Tudge said during the Age Schools Summit on Tuesday.
Last year, the federal government asked for states to compile plans for international students and foreign workers to return to the country, as Victoria did through a letter directed to the government. The state asked the government to launch a second cohort of returning 120 overseas students, migrant workers, and actors quarantining in the state each week in addition to the 1000 returning Australians.
After months of lobbying, the Melbourne University’s deputy vice-chancellor, Micheal Weasley, restated the urgency of international students’ situation by asking to permit them to return “as soon as it is safe and reasonable to do so.”
On the other hand, Canberra has two conditions regarding Victoria’s proposal:
- First, it needs to be approved by the states’ chief health authorities.
- Second, the foreigners must be in addition to the 1000 Australians returning every week.
Furthermore, Victoria’s acting Premier, James Merlino, noted the economic benefits of the proposal and said if the Commonwealth rejected it, the state would not increase the number of stranded Australians permitted to return home.
“International students is a vitally important sector. We’ve been talking to universities and industry who are supportive of this program – the ball’s now in the federal government’s court. We have met all the criteria that was set and I’m very hopeful for a positive answer,” Merlino stated.
State Opposition Leader, Michael O’Brien, recognized the plan for returning international students only if this act wasn’t being done at the detriment of Victorians, who have been left out of the country.
“Education is Victoria’s biggest services export, so it’s time for the government to have a plan to safely bring them back. We’ve been very clear, it has to be done safely and it shouldn’t be done at the expense of Victorians looking to return home,” he said.
Moreover, the International Education Association of Australia chief executive, Phil Honeywood, greeted the proposal but went on to call it “tokenistic.” According to him, the proposal sends the message that Australia is intensifying attempts to bring international students back.
The Coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the state’s economy, with over $370 million lost on the building industry due to international students not being permitted in the country. According to the Property Council of Australia, the effect of international students’ scarcity caused more than $1 billion in losses, and over 13,000 Victorian were left unemployed.
In addition, many Australian universities reported a drop in international students enrolled in this academic year, in particular in New South Wales and Victoria state.
Monash University in Melbourne reported a shortfall of 32 percent in new international students, whereas the University of Technology Sydney claimed to have experienced a 35 percent decline compared to the first semester of 2019.