Higher Education Sector: ACT's Decision to Wait Until Borders Reopen Leaves Students in Uncertainty

Students Australia

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government will not submit the final plan on the return of international students as it has decided to wait for international borders to reopen.

While the territory government is hoping that international borders will reopen by the beginning of the next academic year, the higher education sector said that with this decision, the government has left students and universities in uncertainty, Erudera.com reports.

As the Canberra Times reports, the Chief Executive of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA), Phil Honeywood, said that by taking this decision, the government had gone outside of the national cabinet, leaving the return of international students to the Australian Capital Territory “on a wing and a prayer”.

“By choosing not to do that, the ACT government has gone outside of the national cabinet-agreed process and really is on a wing and a prayer that that process won’t count when borders magically open for the whole of Australia,” Honeywood said.

In late October, the ACT government announced that international students who are fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine recognized by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will be able to return to their universities in Canberra for the start of the 2022 academic year without needing to quarantine upon their return.

The ACT government said that it will work to submit a formal plan for the return of students in 2022 if the Australian government requires it, adding that the requirements will also be set by the Australian government.

“Students will need to follow all Australian Government vaccination and testing requirements for international arrivals. Quarantine will not be required in the ACT for fully vaccinated students,” the ACT government noted.

The Vice-Chancellor, University of Canberra, Paddy Nixon, said that international students returning to Canberra would provide a “huge flow on benefits to the Canberra community”, pointing out that as the economy starts to rebound, the talents that international students bring to campus and city will be needed.

Due to a decrease in the number of international students, the Australian National University experienced an $80 million drop in international student revenue during 2020. On the other hand, the University of Canberra was planning to return some 650 international students stranded overseas.

International students enrolled at Australian universities have been stranded abroad since March 20, 2020, when the country decided to close its borders. The Australian government has recently announced that international students will begin returning to Australia by December this year.

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