While there has been a lot of ambiguity about international students’ return to Australia, one of the country’s significant universities wants to welcome its international students back to campus. Central Queensland University is eager to bring back its international students. Nick Klomp, the vice-chancellor of the university, has criticised the government’s action of not being able to develop a ‘strategic and staged’ plan for their return.
Why are they angry?
Central Queensland University’s administration is miffed at the Australian Government’s zero efforts to bring back the international students. Professor Klomp is annoyed that the Government is ready to hold sporting events where international players are brought and provided with special treatment. Australian Government has provided isolation training bubbles, quarantine accommodation, and international charter flights to these players. However, they are reluctant to do the same for international students.
This is causing a significant dent in the Australian Economy. According to the ‘Financial Review’ Newspaper, Central Queensland University has suffered a loss of $100 million in 2020. The amount was around 22% of the university’s earnings last year. Klomp has added that the Australian Government lacks a coherent national plan even though international students contribute approximately 38 billion dollars each year to the Australian Economy.
What should be done?
Klomp has suggested that a plan for bringing back the international students needs to be chalked out at the National Cabinet. The plan also needs the support of the state and regional administration. Phil Honeywood, the chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, supports Klomp. He has added a lack of political will to bring back the international students to the country and rescue the $38 billion export industry. He has added that their competitors are way ahead as several other international students’ education destinations bring back their students. The US has already made a coherent plan about bringing back international students while the Australian International Education is about to suffer a loss of a second academic year.
Not so soon
While Klomp might want to bring back international students, it might not be the priority for Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge. Even though he could not comment on Klomp’s views, his office has asked the journalists to look into his previous statements regarding this issue.
Tudge has already established that the priority is to protect Australian citizens’ health and bring them back home safely. Only then can the focus be shifted on international students. Even though Tudge is not against bringing international students back into the country, he thinks it is ‘highly difficult to predict’ when it can be done. The international borders were closed in 2020, stopping these students from joining on-campus classes in Australia. Tudgereportedly said in an interview with Sky News last year that enrollment of international students is down by only 5%. This means that the annual revenue is down by only 1.25%.
Tudge had also added that $1 billion was allotted to various universities in Australia to help them through this transition. Moreover, he feels that the universities are well- equipped as there is JobReady Package, 30000 additional domestic spaces, which will help them with their revenue generation.
Encouraging enrolments through discounts
While the government is not drawing up any concrete plans about bringing international students back, it is up to the Australian Universities to boost enrollment. As a result, a lot of universities are offering discounts for international students.
The University of Adelaide, University of Queensland, University of Newcastle- three major Australian Universities offer discounts to the international students who are stuck in their home countries to encourage new sign-ups.
The University of Adelaide is offering a 20% fee waiver for the old and new international students who are about to start their course but unable to join on-campus classes. The University of Newcastle has followed their steps and do the same for the international students about to begin their classes. The University of Queensland is providing a discount of 1.25% for full-time as well as part-time students. To use it, the student needs to be present in their home country and not in Australia.
What about international students?
The international students are now tired of the ambiguity and have recently launched a campaign to return to Australia. An official petition has been sent to the Australian lawmakers, which have gathered around 3000 signatures. This petition is the subpar quality of online education and lack of online classes in some Australian Universities. The students hope that they will be able to bring the Australian Government’s attention to international students’ plight.
Education Minister Alan Tudge has suggested that it would be easier to bring back international students if digital vaccination certificates can be issued. A digital vaccination certification certificate system is needed for international students. It will allow them to come back to the country without worrying about quarantining. The Australian Government expressed concern about the inability to provide proper accommodation to all international students. Issuing a digital certificate will solve their problem as the students will not have to quarantine for 14 days.
However, it will be a tedious process to link vaccination certificates to the digitized passenger return system. Moreover, they also need to check on whether the vaccines are effective against the virus or not. Only then the international students can come back to the country in large numbers. The government plans on digitizing the incoming ‘passenger card.’ The vaccination certificate of each of the international students can then be biometric and authenticated to their respective cards. The Australian Government plans to introduce this system in 2021 itself.
There were around 614268 international students enrolled in various Australian Universities in 2020. The fate of them resides in how the Government plans their return. While introducing a digitized system might be on the cards, a more immediate approach is to bring back the students in small numbers. From Central Queensland University, Professor Klomp supports the idea of getting these students back in ‘small and controlled cohorts.’