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When can international students return to Australia? Here’s what we know so far

When can international students return to Australia
Many states have no concrete details to share — yet. Source: Shutterstock

When can international students return to Australia? Foreign students stuck offshore have been waiting with bated breath over when Australia will open its borders for international students since the country closed its borders to non-Australians in March due to COVID-19.

Delays in pilot programmes have done little to alleviate anxiety over when student can resume on-campus studies. The arrival of 63 international students in Darwin on Nov. 30, 2020 marks the successful completion of a pilot programme with Charles Darwin University (CDU) that made the Northern Territory the first jurisdiction to welcome the return of international students to Australia.

While it’s a great start, questions on when other states will follow remain. Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has said states and territories have missed the deadline to submit their plan for international student arrivals by the end of November. This means international students are still left hanging over when they can safely return to Australia. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of what we know so far: 

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) 

ACT is expected to submit their plans to the Morrison government this week. 

New South Wales

The New South Wales government is expected to submit their plans to the Morrison government this week. Previously, New South Wales Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres was working to bring international students back early next year. The absence of international students due to the pandemic has left the state facing a AU$2.5 billion hit to its wider economy.

The state’s Premier Gladys Berejiklian is championing the reopening of its borders so international students can return and boost the economy, and wants the state’s borders to open to international students within the next few weeks.

Northern Territory

Australia’s Northern Territory became the first jurisdiction to welcome international students back into the country under a pilot programme with CDU last month. No new information regarding a charter flight for the March 2021 intake is available at the time of writing. “CDU is hopeful that following the success of this initial pilot that CDU will be able to welcome more students to Darwin and CDU in 2021. However, this has not been confirmed at this stage,” said the university. The Northern Territory government, however, is expected to submit their plans to the Morrison government this week. 

Queensland


This northeastern state has yet to provide a timeline for its plans for international students, according to Tehan. In October 2020, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had ruled out expanding international arrivals to include students, saying it would put too much strain on the hotel quarantine system and that it was not the time to allow international students to enter despite other states rolling out the welcome mat, reported news.com.au

South Australia

South Australia is currently working on its proposals for the return of international students. According to previous reports, South Australia’s pilot programme — which was proposed by Adelaide University, the University of South Australia (UniSA) and Flinders University — will see some 300 international students fly into the state between November 2020 and January 2021. 

The South Australia pilot programme was announced in August 2020 but had previously been pushed back due to concerns about international arrivals. International students reportedly generate over two billion Australian dollars per year for the South Australian economy. 

Tasmania 

This island state has yet to provide a timeline for its plans regarding the return of international students.

Victoria 

Victoria is currently working on their proposals for the return of international students.

Western Australia

Western Australia has yet to advise a timeline for a plan on the return of international students.