pilot programme
A spike in COVID-19 cases means more uncertainty for international students in Australia. Source: MARIANNA MASSEY/AFP

A pilot programme that would see a small number of international students returning to Canberra this month has been postponed due to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Australia.

The programme, developed by The Australian National University and the University of Canberra in consultation with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Federal Governments, would have seen 350 international students recommence their Semester 2 studies on campus.  

Initial plans would see students board a charter flight to Canberra and undergo 14-day, police-supervised quarantine before returning to campus.

According to ANU, strict protocols and testing were planned to be in place for their flights, transfers and supervised quarantine, with all students needing to return a negative test before leaving quarantine.

In a statement, University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Paddy Nixon said, “The health and safety of our students, staff, the university communities and that of the broader community has always been our first priority.”

“Given the ever-evolving circumstance of this global pandemic, we think it best to press pause on our plans to return a small number of our valued continuing international students who contribute so much to the vibrancy of our city and our campus.”

pilot programme

Rapid developments surrounding COVID-19 spells plenty of uncertainty for international students in Australia. Source: SAEED KHAN/AFP

Meanwhile, The Australian National University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Brian Schmidt said, “We always said we would only undertake this programme when it was safe for both our students, our campuses and the wider community. 

“This is not an end to the programme – just a delay – and we remain committed to ensuring our students can continue their studies back in Australia when the time is right.”

He added that they will continue to support their students who are currently overseas so they can complete their studies with as little disruption as possible. 

“We will keep working to make sure they get the best possible experience, even if they can’t be on our beautiful campus yet. We are all in this together,” he said.

At the time of writing, no new date has been set on when the pilot programme would resume.

Pilot programmes up in the air

pilot programme

Two pilot programmes to bring international students back to Australia have been suspended. Source: SAEED KHAN/AFP

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a separate plan to bring 800 students to South Australia has also been thrown into disarray because of the state government’s decision to keep its borders closed.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said two conditions must be met before international students could return: the state or territory had to open its borders to domestic travel and the university campuses must be open for on-campus learning for domestic students and international students already in the country.

The report added that Tehan said planning for the return of international students was well underway and would be subject to robust health and quarantine requirements.

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