The Indian High Commission in Australia has advised students currently stuck in India, to register with the mission online. This, they say, is in the interest of their health amidst the pandemic and also their return to Australia when the borders reopen.
More than 110,000 international students currently-enrolled higher education providers in Australia, are studying remotely due to the border closures, according to federal government figures. Many of them are stranded in India.
The Indian High Commission in Canberra has issued an advisory for such students stuck in India who have valid Australian student visas, to submit their name, passport number and visa details through a form available on their official website. In addition, they have been asked to indicate the name and details of their course and educational institute in Australia.
- Indian High Commission calls on international students stuck in India to register online
- Indian government launches vaccine drive for stranded students enrolled with foreign universities
- Database to assist in return of students when Australian borders reopen: Indian High Commission in Australia
Why is the Indian High Commission collecting student data?
In response to SBS Punjabi’s query, the high commission said this pertains to India’s vaccine rollout for all above 18 years of age, including international students currently stranded there.
“Government of India has initiated a liberalised and accelerated campaign for COVID Vaccine rollout for all age groups above 18 years of age, which would include all stranded students. Vaccinations are being administered through both public and private healthcare providers,” the Indian High Commission said in a statement to SBS Punjabi.
Elaborating on the purpose of the registration, the high commission’s statement added that it is imperative to keep a record of the number of students affected by COVID-related border restrictions.
“Registration is considered essential to capture accurate information on number of Indian students affected by travel restrictions, their course and University details and their present contact address/numbers,” the Indian High Commission’s statement added.
The high commission also stated that the database would also help them in assisting stranded students in returning to Australia when the government lifts the border ban. Australian borders have been shut to commercial international traffic since March 2020. This prohibits the entry of all temporary visa holders, including international students, unless they have an inward travel exemption.
This database will be useful for the High Commission in various ways, including for rendering assistance as and when the travel restrictions are eased/lifted: High Commission
'The purpose is not clear'
Ravi Lochan Singh, director of Global Reach, which represents Australian universities in South Asia, said the purpose behind collating student data remains unclear.
He believes the Department of Home Affairs is already equipped with this data.
“The Department of Home Affairs has the exact details and list of stranded Indian students with visas. Student visa details, including passport details, are on the Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS). At any time, universities and the Australian government have the complete list. Thus, the attempt by the Indian High Commission in Australia is a bit confusing,” he said.
Mr Singh said that while he is encouraging students to register, the call may have come too late.
“If it is to facilitate vaccination, several states in India have already started prioritising this for students desiring to travel overseas. In the case of Australia, borders remain closed, and at this point, Australia has not yet decided on the concept of ‘vaccination passport’. Also, only one of the two vaccines being used in India is on the WHO list. The first step will be to ensure that all Indian vaccines are recognised,” he added.
Education minister urges universities to bring back international students
Meanwhile, the Australian government continues to signal that universities should not expect a large-scale return of international students this year.
In the Budget announcement in May, a key assumption in its economic forecast was that international students will only be able to return to the country as part of “small phased programs” later this year, and student numbers will only “gradually increase” from 2022.
Commenting on the approach taken by universities, federal Education Minister Alan Tudge on 3 June said they need to do more to bring back international students.
“I gave my speech this morning to the university leaders here in Canberra and said very clearly we want to see students back. Students had that expectation that they enrolled into a course which would be face-to-face, and it’s not happening fast enough,” he said in an interview with Sky News.
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