International Students Welcome News to Return to Australia but Are Worried About Cost of Return

Following the news that New South Wales and Victoria have approved pilot programs over the return of international students to Australia in early December, some students stranded abroad are now worried about the cost of returning.

In addition to the return costs, students have also expressed concerns that the government will prioritize students enrolled in medicine and engineering over those enrolled in other majors. 

The President of the Deakin Vietnamese International Students & Extension society, Stella Quang told The Guardian that students from Vietnam are worried about the compulsory quarantine and costs associated with it.

“We’re doing the online courses and paying full fees. I’m studying media and comms, all of my courses can be provided online. I’m not on a priority list who need to get back but I’ve paid a lot for the benefit of being there, using the infrastructure and experiencing on-campus face to face,” Quang added.

Under the approved pilot programs, some 250 students are expected to return to New South Wales every fortnight and 120 to Victoria during a week, while the quarantine costs will vary by state. The Guardian reports that in New South Wales, quarantine is expected to be free for students, but in Victoria, it will be the universities that will decide who will pay the A$5,000 bill.

Universities Australia’s chief executive, Catriona Jackson, said that the peak body for the university sector “will watch closely” as other states and territories develop pilot programs.

Most recently, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved both the Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca-Serum Institute of India) vaccines for incoming international travelers, which decision was greeted by the Group of Eight (Go8), Australia’s leading research-intensive universities. The Chief Executive of the Go8, Vicki Thomson, said that such a decision gives certainty to international students expected to return to Australia.

Similarly, Universities Australia also welcomed the news about the recognition of these two vaccines. Universities Australia’s chief executive, Catriona Jackson said that the decision gives hope to some 130,000 international students waiting to return to Australia.

“Nearly half of all international students in higher education remain outside of Australia. Around one third of our international PhD students are also offshore, anxious to return to complete their research here. It also sets Australia on a path to reverse the declines in international education that have seen the annual contribution to Australia’s bottom-line fall from $40 billion pre-COVID to less than $32 billion,” Jackson added.

Due to Australia’s tough restrictions, 130,000 international students enrolled at Australian universities had to pursue studies online, while the overall number of international enrollments decreased by 210,000 this year.

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