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International students from ‘safe’ countries may soon be allowed back in Australia

international students Australia
People wearing face masks walk through a shopping district in central Sydney on May 19, 2020. Almost 100 people have died and 7,000 cases of COVID-19 have been detected in Australia, but with new daily infections now in low double digits, the government has been keen to reopen the economy. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

Stranded back home and unsure when you can return to Australia to begin or resume your studies? Don’t fret as plans are currently being worked out to get international students back to Australia as soon as possible.

The Group of Eight universities — a coalition of the biggest and most highly-ranked universities in Australia — has proposed a “secure corridor framework” to federal and state governments.

If it is approved, students from countries deemed safe would be able to return subject to certain requirements, such as strict health checks, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

International students coming back to Australia will be quarantined

The first stage of the framework would be a “rigorous protocol for selecting eligible source countries” that has been successful in curbing the spread of COVID-19.

This means international students coming from countries that have low infection rates, a high number of conducted tests and have demonstrated an ability to deal with further outbreaks could be allowed back in later this year.

They would also be subject to pre-travel isolation and health checks in their home countries and brought to Australia by a “trusted Australian carrier,” suggesting a co-operation between airlines, governments, and respective university departments.

Students allowed to return would also be subject to self-funded quarantine requirements to ensure they are free from the virus.

Once they arrive in Australia, they will be closely monitored to make sure they are complying with quarantine requirements. Universities will be in charge of picking them up from the airport and bringing them to their quarantine accommodations.

According to the proposal, “International students are keen to return to Australia to either continue or commence their tertiary studies. Universities can and are committed to providing a fully facilitated safe-return process with the support of the government.”

SMH reported that federal, state and territory governments have been briefed on the framework, and health officials and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s COVID-19 co-ordination commission have also been consulted.

international students australia

Two women jog as surfers wait for a wave at Cottesloe beach in Perth, to take advantage of unusually large waves created by a storm, the result of Tropical Cyclone Mangga meeting a cold front off the West Australian coast on May 24, 2020. Beaches in Perth, Australia are still open subject to social distancing requirements. Source: Trevor Collens/AFP

Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson said, “Whilst we are optimistic that this framework might assist governments to look at a possible small scale re-entry of our international students in some states in the next three to four months, realistically we would expect to see the bulk of our students back for semester 1, 2021.”

Approximately 120,000 students, or 20 percent of total international enrolments in Australia, have been stranded in their home countries due to travel restrictions.

Universities in Australia are expected to be hit by major financial blows estimated at AU$3 billion to AU$4.6 billion in the next six months as they lose international student revenue.

Australian National University higher education researcher Andrew Norton recently found that approximately 27 percent of  Australian university research spending is funded by international student fees, revealing a dire need for their revenue to sustain the sector.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said they are open to discussion with universities on proposals to bring international students back into Australia.

“We have indicated we are welcoming of proposals for universities, subject to it being at the same time as their general student populations, to look at a means of bringing back — through supervised, stringent quarantine — international students.”

Australia has been successful so far in containing the spread of COVID-19 as the growth of new coronavirus cases are slowing down. Lockdown measures are slowly easing in some states, with some students allowed back in school this week.

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