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Will Indian international students be able to return to Australia under NSW pilot plan?

International students are being allowed to return to South Australia, after federal government approval for a quarantine facility. Source: Getty Images

After months of deliberation, the New South Wales government has submitted a pilot plan to the federal government for its endorsement to bring back international students to the state from as early as July. Will that plan also bring back students from COVID-struck India?

Announcing the plan on 10 June, New South Wales Treasurer Dominic Perrottet had said his government plans to bring back 250 international students per fortnight from overseas to Sydney, a figure that is likely to rise to 500 by the end of the year.

This plan is awaiting the federal government’s approval, after which it may take another eight weeks before the first batch of international students can actually return to New South Wales.


  • NSW's pilot plan to bring back international students remains under federal government review
  • Student source countries still under consideration: NSW treasury spokesperson
  • Indian international students will not be included in South Australia’s return plan: Alan Tudge

Student source countries under consideration: NSW Treasury spokesperson

New South Wales’ treasury spokesperson told SBS Punjabi that the commencement of the program will depend on the federal government’s review.

“From the time NSW has been informed we can proceed and operationalise the plan, it would be a minimum of six-to-eight weeks before the first students arrive back here in NSW,” the spokesperson said.

Asked if students from India will be included in the return plan, the spokesperson told SBS Punjabi that they will be brought back from a range of key source countries which are yet to be identified.

The New South Wales government has also revealed that the state will initially prioritise the return of continuing higher education students from the state’s universities and five large independent education providers. Other sectors and providers will follow as soon as possible.

Will Indian international students return as part of NSW pilot plan?

Indian int student
Akshit Bhasin is waiting to be considered for the NSW student return plan.
Supplied by Akshit Bhasin

Akshit Bhasin, who was studying motor mechanics from Sydney before he left for India in 2020, has received multiple rejections for his inward travel exemption requests.

The 22-year-old said he is taking the New South Wales government’s announcement with a pinch of salt.

“I seriously feel students are being fed lollipops. Over the past year, South Australia and Australian Capital Territory had also announced similar student return plans, but none were implemented. Till date, the only plan that went ahead was of the return of 63 students to Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory in November 2020,” he added.

Over 50,000 international students currently enrolled with education providers in New South Wales are currently stranded offshore, many of whom are in India.

Mr Bhasin also said he was sceptical if the state will consider bringing back students from India in the wake of the recent stringent travel restrictions that the federal government had imposed on returning travellers from there, as India continues to reel under the impact of the second wave of the COVID-19.

“I don’t know if they will allow students from India to return to Sydney campuses this year. They may consider us a litter later, but I am not too hopeful at this point. Also, 250 students a fortnight could take them years to bring back all students from around the world,” he added.

international students
NSW government says student source countries are still under consideration.
Getty Images

India will be added to the list when public health situation improves: KBS

Kaplan Business School (KBS), a private education provider which has campuses around the country, is one of the five private education providers which have been handpicked to participate in the return plan, according to their website.

In its FAQ section for students, KBS states that “initially, passport holders from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam will be eligible for the NSW Student Arrivals Plan”.

“India and Nepal will be added to this list once the public health situation in those countries improves. It is planned that other countries will be added to the list at a future date,” the website stated.

KBS’ website further mentioned that the list of source countries was determined by the New South Wales government based on a number of factors, “including the number of offshore students enrolled in an institution, the public health situation in that country and whether those nationalities are permitted to transit through Singapore”.

SBS Punjabi has reached out to KBS for comment which is yet awaited.

NSW’s pilot plan

While making this announcement last week, the New South Wales treasurer had said that the returning students will be directed to quarantine at specially-approved student accommodation at no cost to taxpayers.

“Typically, we have more than 250,000 international students studying in New South Wales each year, and they directly supported over 95,000 local jobs prior to the pandemic. If we don’t act fast, students will turn to other overseas destinations, and it could take the sector decades to recover,” he had said.

Mr Perrottet also emphasised that the move will not interfere with the current hotel quarantine arrangements and would help bolster the international education industry that was worth $14.6 billion in 2019.

“This won’t come at the expense of returning Aussies. We will continue to bring back 3,000 people per week – well more than any other state,” Mr Perrottet said.

What about South Australia’s student return plan?

South Australia is another state that has submitted its student return plan to the federal government for approval. Returning students will be required to quarantine for two weeks at Parafield Airport in Adelaide’s north.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.

In a statement to SBS Punjabi, South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said that more work is still to be done with the Commonwealth to bring the plan to fruition.

“But it’s important to note that Professor (Nicola) Spurrier and her team at SA Health, along with South Australia Police, have been central to the formation of the plan, which meets all the necessary protocols required by the Federal Government,” he said in a statement.

Earlier this month, federal Education Minister Alan Tudge told SBS News that overseas students were not expected to return in large numbers before the second half of next year. He, however, did not rule out a small-scale return of students as part of state pilot plans from low-risk countries later this year.

“I’ve received a proposal from South Australia last Friday, and we’re expecting one from New South Wales and Victoria as well,” he had said in the interview.

But Mr Tudge also clarified that the South Australian proposal did not include bringing back students from India.

“The SA proposal is largely geared at students from other locations initially, which have a lower COVID risk than India,” Minister Tudge added.


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