Hundreds of international students to return to South Australia under national pilot program

The federal government says the pilot program will be used to test whether a national return of international students is possible during the coronavirus pandemic.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall. Source: AAP

Hundreds of international students are set to return to university in Adelaide next month under a national pilot program aimed at reviving Australia's higher education sector amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham on Sunday said the pilot program of approximately 300 students would be used to test whether a return of international students nationally could be managed.

The students from South East Asia will fly from Singapore to Australia in early September and be forced to undergo a mandatory supervised quarantine, like all international travellers, on arrival. Universities have agreed to pay for the hotel quarantine program for arriving students.

"It's being done with the utmost safety requirements in place," Senator Birmingham said.

"We have successfully demonstrated, particularly states like South Australia, that they can return Australians from all corners of the world, safely quarantining them, and provide no exposure to the South Australian community in that process, so the same cautious and careful approach is being brought to bear when it comes to international students."

The university sector has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, with border restrictions preventing thousands of fee-paying international students returning to study since March.

Last month, Department of Home Affairs figures for the 2019-20 financial year revealed overseas student visa applications had plunged by more than 30 per cent.

The government resumed the processing of student visa applications lodged outside Australia last month in preparation for the reopening of borders.

They also announced a range of measures aimed at boosting international student enrolment, including allowing people who are unable to complete their studies within the timeframe of their original visa due to COVID-19 to lodge an additional application for free.

International students stuck overseas have been calling for a clear plan for when they would be able to return to Australia, many of who were partway through their degree when the border closed.

An earlier planned pilot program for 350 students to return to the Australian Capital Territory in July was scrapped after the onset of the coronavirus crisis in Victoria.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said the state's handling of coronavirus had put them in "the ideal position to be a first mover" in bringing back international students.

"International students are an important part of our community, adding to our state's vibrancy and multiculturalism," he said.

International students bring approximately $39 billion per year into the economy, making it Australia's fourth-largest industry.

With AAP

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Published 16 August 2020 at 2:46pm
Source: SBS News