Australia’s pilot programme
Students from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia are set to return to Australia on Nov. 30, 2020 under Australia’s pilot programme. Source: David Gray/AFP

Charles Darwin University (CDU) has confirmed that it is on track to be the first university in the country to pilot a programme that will see international students return to Australia. This will also make the Northern Territory the first jurisdiction in the country to welcome back international students. The announcement is the latest Australian international students news this week and follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s statement last Friday that citizens will be prioritised over international students.

Almost 90% of approximately 70 seats on the Singapore Airlines flight are filled, said the university, with the flight scheduled to arrive on Nov. 30, 2020. The remaining spots are set to be confirmed in the coming weeks. Students from five countries will fly to Singapore to be connected to the pilot fight, which will depart Changi Airport before landing in Darwin. The students are from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia. 

“The flight has the full approval of the Northern Territory and Australian governments and will not be impacted by Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement on Friday delaying the return of international students in other states,” said the university. The CDU cohort will be the first group of international students to enter the country since Australia introduced strict border restrictions in March due to COVID-19. Upon arrival, students will be escorted immediately to the Northern Territory Government facility at Howard Springs for 14 days of quarantine.

Australia pilot programme delayed to give students more time to obtain visas 

Students were initially scheduled to arrive in Darwin in late October. It was rescheduled to Nov. 30, 2020 to allow students extra time to obtain visas, said CDU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Global Strategy and Advancement Andrew Everett said. “Those confirmed on the flight are a mix of new and continuing students, enrolled in a range of VET, undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD programmes including law, nursing, IT, teaching, accounting and engineering,” he said. “The students are excited to come or return to the Northern Territory to study, and CDU is looking forward to welcoming them on campus, once they have been cleared by the Chief Health Officer.”

International students contribute an estimated 145 million Australian dollars into the NT economy each year and support almost 500 jobs. It is hoped that the success of the pilot will help contribute to its economic recovery. Everett assured that they are working closely with the Northern Territory and Australian governments to ensure the health and safety of the Northern Territory community will be strictly maintained as directed by the Chief Health Officer of the Northern Territory. “CDU is adhering to the advice of the Chief Health Officer on all aspects relating to health and safety, including pre-departure health requirements, COVID-19 testing and quarantine upon arrival. CDU staff will also deliver pastoral care to support students’ well-being,” he said.

CDU has a comprehensive support programme planned during the quarantine period for the students, including daily phone calls, virtual exercise classes and academic workshops. The university previously said they were hopeful that CDU will be able to welcome more students to Darwin and CDU in 2021 following the success of this initial pilot, but that this has not been confirmed at this stage.