Canberra has indefinitely postponed its ‘Safe Passage’ pilot program to bring international students back into the country until there is a “clearer picture around the COVID-19 trajectory.”
The two state-owned universities in the Australian Capital Territory which are jointly initiating the country’s first pilot have announced that they have postponed the plan to bring back up to 350 overseas students to the capital.
“Given the recent COVID developments, the universities have decided to postpone the well-advanced pilot plan to return 350 continuing students to Canberra campuses in late July until there is a clearer picture around the COVID trajectory,” the universities said in a joint media release earlier today.
- Canberra postpones international student pilot program
- Up to 350 international students were set to return to Australia under the plan
- The plan has been jointly initiated by the University of Canberra and the Australian National University
Under the plan being jointly initiated by the University of Canberra and the Australian National University, confirmed students will need to organise their own travel to the departure city to board the charter flight. The location of the departure city has not yet been confirmed.
Professor Paddy Nixon, the vice-chancellor and President of the University of Canberra said the health and safety of our students, staff, the university communities and that of the broader community has always been our first priority.
“Given the ever-evolving circumstance of this global pandemic, we think it best to press pause on our plans to return a small number of our valued continuing international students who contribute so much to the vibrancy of our city and our campus,” said Professor Nixon.
'Disappointed by the delay'
Disheartened by the prolonged delay, ANU undergraduate student Harpragaas Singh who is currently stranded in the northern Indian state of Punjab who is currently unsure if he'd even be shortlisted as part of the pilot said he is anxious to return to his life in Canberra.
“I don’t want to say anything but the fact is that I am totally disappointed with the way they are handling the situation for students and all other temporary visa holders who are currently stranded offshore,” he said.
Universities have not provided a timeline:
In a statement to SBS Punjabi last week, a University of Canberra spokesperson had said they are continuing to work with both the ACT and the federal government on the pilot plan.
“This is being guided by advice provided by Territory and Federal health agencies to ensure the health and safety of the community, our campuses and our students,” said the UC spokesperson.
Reiterating their stand, Professor Brian Schmidt, vice-chancellor and President of The Australian National University said: “We have the support of the ACT Government and the Prime Minister has said the proposal is excellent,”
“We always said we would only undertake this program when it was safe for both our students, our campuses and the wider community. This is not an end to the program – just a delay – and we remain committed to ensuring our students can continue their studies back in Australia when the time is right,” said Mr Schmidt.
About 120,000 students or 20 per cent of total international enrolments in Australia are currently blocked from entering the country due to the border closure, of which nearly 7,000 are stranded in India.
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