South Australia’s Universities Plea Government to Allow International Students’ Return

South Australia’s universities have issued a plea to the federal government to allow international students to return to the country after institutions experienced a 33 percent plunge in international enrolments amid the pandemic and their budget was affected.  

The Vice-President and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Flinders University, Sebastian Raneskold, said that South Australia’s universities and the economy overall had been affected by this drop, adding that an “urgent activation” plan on return of international students is needed, Erudera.com reports.

“This could include dedicated quarantining facilities for international students to ensure their return doesn’t affect general repatriation efforts,” Raneskold told News Corp Australia.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, international students have contributed A$2 billion ($1.54 billion) to the SA economy annually.

News Corp reported that Chinese enrolments at Australian universities have dropped by 20 percent, whereas those from India by 35 percent. Regarding Chinese students, the Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg most recently said that the Australian government supports the return of Chinese students to the country, claiming that the government has made an assumption that Australia will start returning international students by the end of 2021.

 “University of Melbourne data reaffirms that these international students have felt a heightened sense of isolation, a sense of losing their support network, and profound anxiety. The worsening situation in their home countries has not made things easier for them,” Dr.Nira Rahman and Dr. Wajeehah Aayeshah wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald.

According to the federal budget projections for the financial year 2021-22, the federal government does not expect Australia’s international borders to reopen until mid-2022.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at the University of Adelaide, Jacqueline Lo, said that the news to not return international students earlier was “disappointing and very worrying” for the university.

In January, the Australian Education Minister Alan Tudge called on all states and territories to submit plans over international students’ return, claiming that the government was open to all proposals.

Victoria became the first state in Australia to propose a plan for the return of international students. In April, Victorian universities re-proposed their plan to assist 1,000 international students returning to Melbourne every two to three weeks. Nevertheless, Tudge advised the government to be “very cautious” about Victoria’s plan.

In the meantime, Victoria’s authorities said that the number of international students would not fully recover until the mid of 2025.  According to the state budget, international students will slowly start returning to the state at the beginning of 2022.

According to estimations, about 160,000 student visa holders have remained outside Australia since January 10, 2021.

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