Overseas students could return to Victoria by the end of the year after the state government approved a plan to revive the $14 billion international education sector that has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first instance, 120 international students a week will be permitted to arrive in Victoria and universities will cover the hotel quarantine costs of at least $5000, under a plan to be sent to the Commonwealth for approval by the end of the week, a senior government source said.
Victorian universities have been desperate to welcome foreign students and were increasingly frustrated with the state government’s lack of planning for the sector.
Under the scheme approved last week by senior cabinet ministers, international students could return by Christmas if the federal government approves the plan.
The state government will initially welcome university students, with TAFE and school students to follow. They will be housed in hotel quarantine – which normally costs $3000 for Australian residents – at a fee of at least $5000. The senior government source said universities would make individual decisions on whether to recoup or absorb the fees.
Ten vice-chancellors signed a letter of support for the government’s plans in recent days, although some in the sector were kept in the dark about the scheme, according to education industry sources.
Deakin University vice-chancellor Iain Martin said while the number of international students initially allowed to return was “small”, it would send the strongest signal yet that Victoria, and Australia, was opening up to the rest of the world.
“We are delighted there’s a plan and a path forward,” Professor Martin said.