Victoria: Return of international students ‘incredibly challenging, if not impossible’ in 2021

Victoria: Return of international students ‘incredibly challenging, if not impossible’ in 2021
International students gunning to return to Victoria will have to adjust their expectations. Source: William West/AFP

International students hoping to return to Victoria have just been hit with another blow as Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said his state would not be able to help facilitate the arrival of almost 165,000 international students stuck abroad. According to The Guardian, Andrews delivered the message on Monday (Jan. 18, 2021) for students hoping to return to Australia through Victoria. 

“Even if every Aussie that wanted to come home had already made it home, there’s a big capacity issue here,” he was quoted saying. “I’m not pleased about that — international education is our biggest export. But … the government is not spending hours and hours trying to make something that I think is, frankly, not possible, possible. Tens and tens of thousands of international students coming back here is going to be incredibly challenging, if not impossible, during this year.”

Australia’s international education sector is worth 40 billion Australian dollars nationally and AU$8 billion in Victoria alone. Student accommodation providers in Australia proposed that international students could quarantine in their buildings to avoid a bottleneck of Australian residents’ return to Australia. Andrews had previously said “bespoke” quarantine facilities were an option his government would consider, but that it would have to be run to COVID-19 quarantine Victoria standards. “It’s very important we have that done properly, and that would apply no matter who the group was coming in. We can’t have every hotel room in the city being guarded by Victoria Police,” he was quoted saying.

Long road ahead for international students’ return to Victoria?

Australia’s federal government has temporarily slashed the number of international arrivals allowed into the country. Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said caps on international arrivals in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland will be reduced by 50% until February 15 after the UK’s new mutant strain of COVID-19 was detected in a Brisbane quarantine hotel cleaner, reported The Sydney Morning Herald. He also said that the country will introduce new rules around air travel.

The international arrival cap on Australia has sparked concern for those in the international education sector. International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) CEO Phil Honeywood said the announcement will test students’ loyalty to Australia. IEAA will also continue lobbying the federal government and write to Morrison over students’ return to Australia. The Guardian said state and federal governments are under increasing pressure to repatriate some 40,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents still stranded abroad due to strict arrival caps, which means international students are a lower priority. Government data shows that just 130 new and returning international students entered Australia in October 2020 down from 51,000 the previous October.