pilot plan
The countries where students will come from for NSW’s pilot plan has yet to be confirmed. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

Australia has recently announced pilot plans to facilitate the return of international students to Australia amid the pandemic. Federal education minister Alan Tudge previously confirmed that plans are being developed by New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Tudge, however, said before any plans are approved for international students, Australia must first ensure that domestic students are fully back on campus. 

“Now, in terms of international students, we certainly want to see those international students back. And there are good plans being developed by New South Wales, by Victoria, by South Australia, and we’re working through those,” he said. Tudge expects to have some smaller-scale pilots later this year. “And then we’ve obviously made an assumption in the budget that we’ll have larger-scale numbers in the second half of next calendar year. But we’re just taking one step at a time there,” he said.

Here’s what we know so far about Australia’s pilot plans:

NSW pilot plan

New South Wales (NSW) Treasurer Dominic Perrottet recently announced a pilot plan that would enable 250 students to return to Sydney per fortnight from mid-year. The intake could double if it goes well. Students will be chosen from a range of key countries — there are no concrete details yet.

The NSW pilot plan is now with the Australian federal government for a final review. According to the spokesperson, it could take another eight weeks before the first batch of international students returns to the state after receiving approval. The NSW government also revealed that the state will initially prioritise the return of continuing higher education students from the state’s universities and five large independent education providers. Other sectors and providers will follow as soon as possible.

According to Kaplan Business School, an Australian independent higher education institution, they are one of five private providers who are part of this pilot plan. Their website notes that they have been working with Study NSW over the last 12 months to facilitate the safe and supportive return of international students to Australia.

South Australia’s plan


An employee walks past the empty check-in counters for Virgin Australia in the departures area at Adelaide Airport in Adelaide on April 21, 2020. Source: Brenton Edwards/AFP

Last month, the South Australian government approved a plan to let incoming international students serve two weeks’ quarantine at Parafield Airport in Adelaide. In a statement to SBS Punjabi, South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said that more work is still to be done with the Commonwealth to bring the plan to fruition.

“But it’s important to note that Professor (Nicola) Spurrier and her team at SA Health, along with South Australia Police, have been central to the formation of the plan, which meets all the necessary protocols required by the Federal Government,” he said in a statement.

Victoria’s pilot plan

In its FAQ section, Study Melbourne notes that the Victorian Government is continuing to work with education providers and the Australian federal government on a plan that will facilitate the gradual return of international students when conditions allow.

“Timing for the commencement of international student arrivals is to be confirmed, following further consultation with the Australian government,” it said. “It is difficult to provide a definitive timeline for when international students can return to Victoria in significant numbers. This will depend on health advice, the rollout of vaccines and other factors that need to be considered to ensure the safety of the community.”