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No guarantee Australia would reopen borders to international students mid-December: minister

Latest news for international students in Australia
While it’s the country’s intention to reopen its borders on December 15, this decision will also depend on the international evidence on Omicron. Source: William West/AFP

What’s the latest news for international students in Australia? According to 7news.com.au, health minister Greg Hunt isn’t making any guarantees Australia will reopen its border to international students and visa holders in mid-December. 

The government announced on November 29 that it is delaying the reopening of its borders from December 1 to 15 following concerns about the Omicron variant. International students taking part in a state or territory International Student Arrivals Plan, and have been granted an exemption, will still be able to travel to Australia.

“I’m certainly not making any guarantees,” Hunt told Sky News when asked if the pause on international arrivals would definitely end after December 15. “It’s our intention at the end of that period, subject to the science and medical advice, to return to the previous settings. It will depend on the international evidence.”

Latest news for international students in Australia

On Sunday, Hunt said there were 15 Omicron cases that have been identified in Australia. Source: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP

Latest news for international students in Australia: More uncertainty for many

The latest news for international students in Australia have meant more uncertainty for international students stuck abroad. When speaking at a press conference in Melbourne on Sunday, Hunt said there were 15 Omicron cases that have been identified in Australia while others are still under investigation. “I believe there are 41 countries, on our latest advice, that have identified the variant,” he said.

“So we continue to focus on that information. We’re reviewing, daily and weekly, the travel restrictions. There are no plans to change the current proposals, but our message is very clear: safety and medical advice first. That’s been our approach throughout the pandemic, and that will continue to be the approach. So if the medical advice changes, then we change the rules in accordance with that.”

Reports suggest this latest news for international students in Australia has meant many students are opting to study elsewhere where borders are open, while some will switch countries if Australia’s borders don’t open on December 15.

Latest news for international students in Australia

The latest news for international students in Australia haven’t been positive for students. Source: Patrick Hamilton/AFP

Australia’s popularity as a study abroad destination takes a hit

Speaking to SBS News, Expert Education director Badri Aryal said many students have already given up on Australia. The Sydney-based company specialises in attracting international students to Australia. “We work with many countries around the world, but when I look at India, around 60% of students who were going to come to Australia are [now] going to the UK, Canada or the US,” Aryal was quoted saying.

Data released by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment earlier this year showed universities across Australia experienced a steep decline in the number of enrolments and course commencements in 2021, said the report.

Aryal opined that the country’s border closure is not an efficient way for Australia to stem the tide of international students choosing to study in competitor markets such as the US, Canada and the UK.  “This kind of variant will come from time to time, but locking the border is not the solution,” he told SBS News. 

“We’re one of the [most] highly vaccinated countries in the world. We’re nearing [a] 90% [rate], which is remarkable. It’s a significant number when compared to countries like the UK, the US or Canada.” He added that the Australian government should give international students some certainty in terms of opening the border.