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Return to Australia: NSW suggests alternative quarantine plan for stranded students

Return to Australia
The advertisement invites eligible purpose-built student accommodation providers based in the Sydney CBD or its fringe to submit an expression of interest to house international students coming into NSW for the 14-day quarantine period. Source: William West/AFP

The New South Wales (NSW) government is considering an alternative hotel quarantine programme for international students to return to Australia. It has advertised an expression of interest, which closes on April 12. “The return of international students as soon as possible is vital for retaining jobs in our education sector, and for the economy more broadly,” it said. 

“International education is our second-largest export, generating 14.6 billion Australian dollars in exports annually before the pandemic and supporting nearly 100,000 jobs in NSW. We estimate in 2021 we have already lost one-third of our international student base.” 

The government added that returning international students must not displace returning Australian citizens and permanent residents and must not overload stretched health and police resources. “A solution is required to identify a manageable, ongoing number of regular arrivals outside of the 3,000 per weekly cap that would sit alongside the current quarantine hotel model applying the same protocols and processes and led by NSW police and health,” it added.

The advertisement invites eligible purpose-built student accommodation providers based in the Sydney CBD or its fringe to submit an expression of interest to house international students coming into NSW for the 14-day quarantine period.

Frustrations reach a tipping point for students unable to return to Australia

return to australia

Some international students have turned to Twitter to voice their disappoints over a lack of clear timeline for their return to Australia.

Despite the announcement, not all international students were buoyed by the message, taking to Twitter to express their frustrations over flip-flop policies regarding their return to Australia. Many have been left in the dark over when they can return to Australia in the past year, while proposed pilot programmes to facilitate their return have been shelved. Charles Darwin University was the only university in Australia that had successfully piloted a programme to bring in a small number of international students last November.

Some are calling for students to boycott the country and choose alternative locations such as Canada and the UK, whose borders are open to international students who satisfy each country’s border entry requirements. In response to the news, one Twitter user with a handle Harjeet29822736, said students have been listening to similar statements for “a very long time.” Another Twitter user, lovie_003, said, “We won’t believe in any news until we see this happening on ground.”

Previously, Australian Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge said he is “increasingly hopeful” that most international students could return to Australia by Semester 1 of 2022 with vaccine rollouts underway. He also called for Australian universities to improve their online delivery or hybrid learning models as well as provide different price offerings for their full programmes and micro-credentials.