Plans to bring international students back to Australia have been revealed by the state government in New South Wales, only a few weeks after the feral government first indicated large numbers of students would not return to the country until 2022.
Speaking to Guardian Australia, state treasurer Dominic Perrottet confirmed NSW was close to “finalising a plan” for international students to return to the state. Students have been studying remotely from their home countries since the start of the pandemic.
Under the proposals, students would need to self-isolate in a purpose-built 600-bed accommodation site for 14 days.
Weekly arrival numbers are limited by government (New South Wales currently accepts 3,010 per week) and it is understood that international students would be counted under a separate arrival cap.
Phil Honeywood, chief executive of International Education Association of Australia, confirmed that an empty student accommodation site had been approved and could be converted into quarantine facilities if plans are approved by federal education minister Alan Tudge.
Commenting further, Honeywood said the aim was to bring in a few hundred students for semester two to “prove the model” and that the plan “involves chartered flights rather than taking commercial seats off returning Australians,”.
While many students continue to enrol at Australian universities from their home countries, a recent poll suggests international students may instead turn to the UK and Canada who both have more open border policies.
With international students bringing an estimated $40bn to the economy every year, including $14.6bn to New South Wales, Perrottet recognises the importance of implementing a strategy for their safe return. He said, “if we don’t address this issue then I believe we’ll have an industry on its knees and one that will look elsewhere.”
Honeywood stresses that international students contribute more to the economy than tennis stars or cricketers, both of whom were allowed entry into the country in January to compete in tournaments.
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According to leading UK scientists, it is inevitable that new coronavirus variants will enter the country when international travel resumes to and from England from 17 May.