International education is the country’s fourth-biggest export, and the competition is fierce. Australia is hoping to woo back students, even as other countries roll out the welcome mat.
For now, the border is only open to returning Australians, permanent residents and their immediate family in three jurisdictions.
Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia says there's a good chance that many students will be able to return by the start of the academic year in 2022.
"Look, we need to work very quickly and very hard right now to make sure that all these processes are as streamlined and as smooth as they can be. We know there's considerable confusion for students still about what the rules are once they get to Australia and there are different rules all up and down the eastern seaboard. So we need to uniform, make those uniform and standard. Make sure there is a really clear path for students who have been waiting so patiently, so patiently at home. 130-140,000 students still enrolled at university, still working away but doing so remotely. So keen to get back into the country."
Andrew McKellar, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says he wants to see quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated students.
He says it could be restrictive and expensive for international students to undergo quarantine upon arrival .
"This is a $40-billion-dollar-a -year industry for Australia, export industry. It's absolutely essential that all institution, universities, other institutions are able to get those students coming back in from overseas. China and India are the big markets. We have to get people coming in from those markets."
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