Charles Darwin University (CDU) will be the first university in the country to pilot a programme to bring international students back to Australia. According to the university’s website, the pilot has been approved by the Australian and Northern Territory governments and will see up to 70 international students arrive in Darwin from Singapore in late October in time for the next intake on Nov. 9, 2020. 

International students in this pilot programme will be the first group allowed to enter Australia since it closed its borders in March due to COVID-19. This will also make the Northern Territory the first jurisdiction in the country to welcome back international students.

What international students should know about NT’s scheme

International students will be escorted immediately to the Northern Territory Government facility at Howard Springs for 14 days of quarantine upon arrival, according to CDU. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Global Strategy and Advancement, Andrew Everett said in a statement that his team had been working tirelessly over the past six months to secure the return of the students and wanted to reassure the Darwin community that all health and safety measures will be strictly maintained as directed by the Chief Health Officer of the NT. “The health and safety of the Northern Territory community is CDU’s highest priority,” he said, adding that the university is adhering to the advice of the Chief Health Officer on all aspects relating to health and safety, including pre-departure health requirements, COVID-19 testing and quarantine upon arrival. Pastoral care to support student wellbeing will be delivered too.

Students will likely come from a range of countries including China and Southeast Asia and will travel from Singapore to Darwin at their own expense. “International students contribute an estimated 99 million Australian dollars into the NT economy each year and support almost 500 jobs. It is hoped that the success of the pilot will help contribute to the recovery of the NT economy,” he said. 

CDU’s international students make up approximately 10% of their student cohort and are critical to the university’s growth, said Everett. “This is a breakthrough for Australia and particularly CDU, the institution closest to Asia and the logical city to be piloted as the first safe corridor, assisted by having the Howard Springs residential facility.”

South Australia’s pilot programme

international students Australia

Interstate health workers from Adelaide in South Australia take a swab during COVID-19 testing in a park in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick West on July 2, 2020. Source: William West/AFP

The South Australia Government and the federal government is in the midst of ironing out the final details of the pilot plan that aims to fly back up to 300 international students into Adelaide from Singapore, according to SBS PunjabiIn a statement to the portal, a spokesperson for the state government said they are committed to welcoming back international students who are “important members” of the community.

“Any pilot programme requires multiple approvals and the South Australian Government continues to work closely with all relevant parties to ensure international students are welcomed back to the state in a safe and responsible way that meets SA Health’s strict requirements. StudyAdelaide will work with the universities to assist international students to book flights once the proposal is approved,” the spokesperson was quoted saying.

What about New South Wales and Victoria?

Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney Stuart Ayres told SBS Punjabi that the state is gearing up to fly back its cohort of international students early next year. “We have had over 65,000 people go through hotel quarantine and there are many lessons from that operation which can be used to support the return of international students,” Ayres was quoted saying.

Victoria, on the other hand, is working on a proposal to fly back international students but hasn’t committed to a timeline, unlike other states. The state was home to about a quarter-million international students last year. “The Victorian Government is continuing to work with the Commonwealth on a detailed proposal and we look forward to welcoming international students back to Victoria when it is safe to do so,” a spokesperson for the state government said in a statement.

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