The New South Wales Government is planning to establish an alternative quarantine program for international students to facilitate their return in late 2021, in its latest response to the state’s tumbling revenue of its vital $14.6 billion-worth overseas education industry.
Revealing the details of the proposal, a spokesperson for NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, said that the state is developing a plan to revive the international student and education sector within the context of the current quarantine system.
“Any approved plan will incorporate all the existing police and health protections to ensure the safety of the community and students,” the spokesperson told SBS Punjabi.
- NSW plans quarantine accommodation for international students
- Federal government rejects Victoria’s plan to allocate 120 more places for economic cohorts
- As on 6 April, 55,137 student visa holders from NSW were outside Australia
This comes days after the New South Wales treasury invited purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) providers to submit their expressions of interest to form a panel of eligible providers in order to quarantine returning international students.
As part of the plan, proposed properties will be assessed in consultation with NSW Police, NSW Health and Fire and Rescue NSW for assessing their suitability to join the program.
“The NSW Government continues to work constructively with the universities, health officials, police officials and state and federal counterparts to find a solution that can operate alongside the international arrivals caps mandated by National Cabinet for each individual state,” Mr Perrottet’s spokesperson elaborated.
As on 6 April, there were 55,137 primary student visa holders outside Australia who are registered to study with education providers in NSW.
What’s going on in Victoria?
The state reopened its hotel quarantine program on 8 April and had submitted a proposal to the federal government seeking to reserve 120 additional places for economic cohorts, including international students and skilled migrants.
But the plan was rejected by the federal government, which is reportedly keen to greenlight pilot plans that can accommodate returning students in addition to their current caps for stranded citizens and permanent residents returning home
Calling it a “disappointing outcome”, a spokesperson of the government of Victoria told SBS Punjabi that the state will continue to work with the Commonwealth and utilise these places as soon as this matter is agreed to.
“We look forward to welcoming international students back to Victoria when it is safe to do so. The current budget provides $33.4 million to lay the foundation for a strong recovery for the sector,” the spokesperson said.
The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show only 200 international students arrived in the country in February, out of which 40 returned to Victoria, compared with 41,860 student arrivals in the same period in 2020.
Students await green light:
Shivam Pahwa, an overseas student stuck in India, is struggling to finish his cookery diploma online, as he is required to complete practical training in order to get his completion certificate.
The 21-year-old, who was studying at Brighton Institute of Technology in Melbourne before he left for Ludhiana in Punjab for medical treatment, says he would have never done so had he known the borders would remain shut this long.
“I hope the government provides us with some sort of guarantee that they do intend to fly back currently-enrolled students so that we can plan our lives,” says a concerned Mr Pahwa.
“We are willing to get vaccinated, carry a proof and a negative COVID test. We are also happy to pay for our flights and hotel quarantine. Now, all we want is a green light from the Australian government,” he adds.
‘Don’t forget Australian students in chase for internationals’
On 19 April, Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge called out universities for chasing revenue brought in by overseas students.
In a media release, Minister Tudge said publicly-funded education providers must focus on their “primary role” of imparting education to local students.
“Here we have a great opportunity: to strengthen our approach to international education, to grow new markets abroad, but also to ensure our universities are delivering for Australian students. After all, the primary role of our publicly-funded institutions, is to educate Australians,” he said.
Minister Tudge said that having over 60 per cent of a classroom with international students from just one or two countries, is neither optimising the student experience for Australians, nor for international students.
“This is particularly true if universities are not applying transparent and rigorous English language requirements for international students – a concern raised recently by the regulator, TEQSA,” he said in a media release.
This comes days after Mr Tudge signalled that overseas students from countries including India, would not be able to return in large numbers this year.
He, however, said that the government was open to receiving proposals from jurisdictions and universities that can ensure the safe return of foreign students to Australian shores in small numbers.