WA border update
Keeping COVID-19 at bay would be a selling point for the state. Source: Trevor Collens/AFP

The latest (Western Australia) WA border update serves as a light on the horizon for international students. The state’s borders are expected to reopen to international students next year, provided the state meets its 90% vaccination target. 

Education Minister Sue Ellery is confident that many international students will come to the state in time for semester 1 of 2022, which is due to begin in late February, reported ABC News. 

“Up until this point, it had been the possibility that we would be lagging behind the east coast bringing back numbers of international students, but this means we will not, we will be on the same timeline,” Ellery told Stan Shaw on ABC Radio Perth.

Here’s the latest on what we know about the WA border update:

WA border update

The WA border update means the state will not lag behind the east coast. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

What we know about WA border update

The WA border update is welcome news for international students. WA Premier Mark McGowan and Ellery met with tertiary education leaders on Wednesday to discuss the plan to bring students back to WA. Incoming students will need to be fully vaccinated and undergo COVID-19 tests. 

“I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t [return], they’re enrolled now and the universities want them back on campus, they have visas and they’re waiting for flights,” Ellery was quoted saying to ABC Radio Perth. “The view expressed at the meeting yesterday was semester two is looking great and semester one is a bonus. 

“If you were a mum or dad sitting in Singapore or anywhere else, thinking about where you might want to send your 18- or 19-year-old to get the best education, WA is one of the safest places in the world to do that.” 

Curtin University vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne told ABC Radio Perth she and other tertiary education leaders had been working well with the government. Hayne opined that there wasn’t a major concern with the lack of a specific date just yet, adding that government decisions could have prompted some students to make a choice to go somewhere else in Australia or elsewhere.

“But I think the big opportunity here in Western Australia is, as the minister has very clearly pointed out, it’s a very safe place to be,” she was quoted saying.

WA border update

International students are eager to return to Australia. Source: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP

Green shoots of positivity on WA border update, but Australia’s reputation has taken a hit

Separately, Navitas head of strategic insights and analytics Jonathan Chew said in an analysis that Australia is no longer being considered safe and stable, adding that in the first round of the Navitas Agent Perception survey in March 2020, almost 80% of agents agreed/strongly agreed that Australia’s handling of the pandemic had made it a more attractive study destination. Since then there has been a steady decline — 18 months later, just over 30% of agents agree/strongly agree with that statement.

Chew was quoted saying that while many countries are learning to live with COVID, WA’s approach could prove to be popular among Chinese students and their families.

“They’ve continued to maintain a zero-COVID environment back home,” he said. “For those parents and students…connections on the ground are telling us that there is a lot more hesitancy to jump on a plane to the UK or Canada. That’s a key market where being able to offer a zero-COVID environment is extremely attractive.”

With parents being concerned about their children’s safety amid COVID, Chew said, “WA’s incredibly phenomenal track record in dealing with COVID is an absolute asset.”