New South Wales and Victoria recently announced pilot plans to facilitate international students’ return to Australia. This is welcome news for those who have been locked out of the country for the better part of 18 months but the return to Australia cost could be a problem
According to The Guardian, some students worry that degrees such as medicine and engineering will be prioritised over others. Australia’s strict border measures caused its universities to suffer a 6% — or 2.2 billion Australian dollar — drop in revenue in 2020, said a report from the Mitchell Institute.
Return to Australia cost varies by state
Some 500 international students could return via New South Wales’ pilot plan in December, while in Victoria, the number will be set at 120 a week at first.
The return to Australia cost for international students will be different in each state. According to The Guardian, quarantine will be free for students in New South Wales, but universities in Victoria will decide who foots the A$5,000 bill. Separately, a report by The Age said it would be up to Victorian universities to make individual decisions on whether to recoup or absorb the fees.
Universities in the state have been frustrated with the state government’s lack of planning for the sector and are desperate to welcome international students. According to the Victorian government, for over 10 years, international education has been Victoria’s largest services export industry, generating more than A$70 billion for the economy in that time. In 2019, the sector generated A$13.7 billion in export revenue for the state, while international education also supported almost 79,000 Victorian jobs in 2018.
Victorian opposition spokesman for higher education Matthew Bach was quoted saying that the government must urgently implement a plan for international students’ return to Australia. “Victorian universities are bleeding enrolments by the day, whilst other states have plans in place,” he said. “A Victorian plan is now a matter of the utmost urgency to get our state back on track.”
A Victorian government spokesman said: “We will present our Student Arrivals Plan to the Commonwealth shortly. The plan will provide for the stages and safe return of international students.”
Deakin Vietnamese International Students and Extension society president Stella Quang told The Guardian that Vietnamese students had welcomed the news but were worried about costs. She said students were also worried about which degrees would get priority entry. As every other state and territory is developing its own pilot to facilitate students’ return to Australia, Universities Australia’s chief executive Catriona Jackson said it would be watching closely.