1. Students who received vaccines developed in China would likely be excluded
2. The students will not be counted in the federal government’s caps on returning citizens
3. Universities will cover the cost of quarantine but students will pay for flights
Students who received vaccines developed in China would likely be excluded
Hundreds of international students will be welcomed back to NSW before the end of the year but students from China and Nepal will likely be excluded from the pilot plan announced by the state government. In early December 500 students from around the world will be permitted to travel into Australia on two chartered flights.
Universities will cover the cost of quarantine but students will pay for flightsWestern Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Barney Glover, who has been leading a committee planning the pilot, said airfares would be paid for by students but universities would cover the cost of quarantine.
“It’s a very small initial pilot but it’s an important signal that we’re opening up to international students again,” he said.
The global program will only be eligible for students fully vaccinated with Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recognised vaccines including Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna and AstraZeneca. This means students who have received vaccines like Sinovac and Sinopharm, both developed by Chinese pharmaceutical companies, would likely be locked out of the program as they were not TGA approved at this time.
“We encourage ATAGI (The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) and the TGA to move quickly on this to work through the vaccination reciprocity arrangements for non-approved vaccines so we can open up more broadly,” Professor Glover said.
However, Professor Glover said he understood the importance of beginning the pilot program with TGA-approved vaccines.
The students will not be counted in the federal government’s caps on returning citizensDeputy Premier John Barilaro said the staggered return of students was stage one of the pilot which would slowly expand and students would not be counted in the federal government’s caps on returning citizens.
“Importantly, this plan will not come at the expense of any Australian citizen or resident wishing to return home,” he said.
Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson commended the NSW government for “being so determined” to lead the nation in bringing back international students.
“It’s really important there’s a move from the states so we congratulate NSW vice chancellors and the state government for making this decision,” Ms Jackson said.
“International students have made a significant investment in their education in Australia and it’ll be great to see them back in safe means and robust quarantine measures.”
Belle Lim, who is a Malaysian international student and president of the Council of International Students Australia, said students who were forced to return to their home countries were desperate to be get back to Australia.
She said many had put their lives “on hold” and although they could study externally, the time difference and lack of social connection was taking its toll.
“Having your life interrupted in this way without any concrete plan … has been very tough for students,” Ms Lim said.
“The fact that students have paid really quite high tuition fees to study in Australia but not being able to have the experience is a big financial and mental pressure on students so this news is very welcome.”
Before the pandemic, about 250,000 international students were studying in NSW and represented the state’s second-largest export.
The state government said 57,000 overseas students were currently trying to get into NSW.
Ms Lim said there would be overwhelming demand from students wanting to return but the plan included a “triage system” to identify students most in need of face-to-face learning.
Priority will be given to PhD students, those who have nearly completed degrees, and students studying medicine and health-related courses.
Ms Lim said that international students felt “conflicted” about the strict vaccine conditions.
“Students need to be treated fairly and equally … we will continue to advocate for all of the international students but we are cooperative.
“We believe they will take it into account and do the best they can.”
Accommodation provider Scape will house the returning students for their mandatory 14-day quarantine in Redfern in inner Sydney.