Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government is working with the states and territories on plans to allow some international students to return on a pilot basis.
In a powerful ultimatum to all jurisdictions, the prime minister reiterated that the states and territories eager to allow international students back into the country will first have to fulfil the prerequisites laid down by the national cabinet.
He said international students won’t return to Australia “until Australian students are back at universities. That won’t happen unless Australians can move from one part of the country to where that’s happening.”
"There are a range of prerequisites the states are well aware of and they need top applied," said Mr Morrison.
- Open state borders and bring back onshore students, PM tells states
- ACT to welcome back 350 international students in July
- Overseas students studying at universities in Victoria may have to wait longer
Safe Passage Student Return (SPSR):
This comes days after two state-owned universities in the Australian Capital Territory revealed details of a Safe Passage Student Return (SPSR) which would see up to 350 existing overseas students returning to Canberra ahead of the second-semester commencing on July 27.
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.
“All ANU and UC offshore international students will be formally invited in early July to submit an application to participate in the program. Places on the program will be allocated in accordance with the above selection criteria,” according to the information revealed by ANU.
Students from different source countries will be allowed to return to Canberra. However, it is not clear which countries would be chosen under the scheme.
The decision on potential airline carrier and airports will be based on strict health and safety protocols as well as practical travel considerations.
“Successful applicants will have seven days to confirm their acceptance, pay for their flight using an online portal provided by the airline and finalise payment of Semester 2 tuition fees.”
ANU has further stated that if students invited for the program do not accept or pay for their flight and tuition fees within the stipulated timeframe, their seats would be forfeited and offered to the next student on the waitlist.
'Feeling left out and abandoned'
While things are moving for select students in ACT, overseas students studying at universities in other states, particularly Victoria may have to wait longer than initially anticipated, in the wake of the recent spurt in coronavirus infections.
Indian-origin student Akash Singla who is months away from procuring a postgraduate degree from Federation University in Victoria said he was feeling “left out and abandoned.”
“We are just constantly living in uncertainty. While ACT is planning to bring back its international students, we haven’t heard of any such development from the Victoria government and that is extremely frustrating,” he said.
“I even asked my university for a support letter to submit along with my request for travel exemption on humanitarian grounds, but they said they could not provide any help,” said the 24-year-old who is currently stranded in the northern Indian state of Punjab.
Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the Victoria government said the state government is working closely with education providers and the Commonwealth Government to explore viable options to support international students to return to Victoria “when it is safe to do so.”
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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