The Government in Australia’s Northern Territory declared that they are working on a new Pilot program. The program aims to fly 70 international students from Singapore to Darwin in the coming month. A spokesperson from the NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s office said that the program’s work is already in place.
The Government of Australia and NT authorities are planning to accomplish everything by the end of next month. For this particular initiative, the NT government is working in tandem with Charles Darwin University. Apart from this, other Australian states have also been working on such a concept. However, no concrete results have come out of their efforts.
A few days back, Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, commented that both South Australia and NT want to welcome international students.
Cost and Present Situation
So far, there is no intimation on who will be paying the airfare for these students. Alternatively, is it that the students will have to fend the same. Apart from that, each student will be quarantined before he starts his regular schedule. Costing of the same will be in the range of $2500, as they will stay in Howard Springs, waiting for things to be normalized.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports state that in 2019 around 410 international students arrived in NT. However, due to the pandemic, there was no entry for students this year.
There were just 40 students who traveled in July this year to begin their studies. Last year the same figure was around 143,810. The dip has been nasty and has hit the country too hard.
Government Strategy for the Future
With a rise in international students coming into the country, the Australian Government had planned a new strategy. Before the Corona scare, the NT government announced plans of bringing in 10000 international students by 2025. As the chances of infection in countries kept growing, the plans were stalled.
Gunner mentioned that they are discussing other possibilities, as well. He is working on NT’s present hotspot policy to accommodate more international destinations. Any international destination is under the scanner at present. Irrespective of the origin country of the flight, the traveler has to undergo the mandatory quarantine.
NT managed to grow its international students count from 1000 to 2500 in the last few years. This year they have not seen any such luck so far. Hence there are talks with the Australian Government to bring back the same number next year. The purpose is to get maximum students and that without any significant setback to the economy.
Read More: What Is a Pilot Study?
What is Howard Springs?
Howard Springs is the place where they plan to quarantine all the students and travelers. It is a former Inpex worker’s village, and travelers from Wuhan resided there on arrival. Gunner added that as more people arrive in NT, the figure staying in this facility has risen from 600 to 1100. As per him, the authorities are working hard to ensure the safety of the facility’s residents.
The Australian Government is organizing emergency charter flights. Students and other travelers using these facilities are safely escorted to this destination. Arrangements are made such that the residents of the territory are not infected. The nature of the pandemic is such that students have to be carefully escorted to the facility without any interaction with outsiders.
The purpose of the quarantine stay is to stop the virus from spreading and further affecting the entire populace. The Government knows that all the measures can be effective only if the precautions are carefully adhered to.
Senior Minister’s Take
Penrith MP Stuart Ayers (the Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism, and Western Sydney) has given his share of inputs on the matter. He said the Government is working in tandem with the Vice-chancellors. They are planning to set up a quarantine system based upon the Government’s experience and association.
He said the past arrivals of people and their effective management has proved that they are in a position to welcome students as well. With these plans, the Australian Government would be in a place to open travel for students before for regular travelers.
His take is upon having further discussions with the vice-chancellors. The idea is to plan further about how they can work closely with the University sector. Ayers has stated that a 14-day mandatory quarantine is manageable. He is not ruling out completely the possibility of things normalizing out by the end of 2020.
Read More: New Zealand Pathway Student Visa Pilot
Safe Corridors Framework
Australia’s top 8 universities have framed a safe corridors framework. The purpose is to allow international students and ensure next year safely; the pandemic does not impact the education sector. They wanted to roll out the pilot program in July. However, things got delayed due to the pandemic situation in Victoria, pressure on the quarantine facility, and repatriation of citizens of Australia.
The NSW is all set to take approval from the Federal Government for a safe corridors framework. Though the efforts are being made, the support from the Federal authorities is mandatory. Countries like the UK have hired chartered flights to accommodate international students. The Australian Government is fearful that the other countries might snatch away their prospective students using early efforts.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the study plans of many students. However, countries realize the extent of the mess created. They are taking concrete steps to see that students can resume their students as soon as they can.
Though this may mean that the wait for students may be longer than in other countries, the Australian Government does not want to take anything lightly. They are open to students coming back but not until the facilities are in place.
The manner in which these things are moving ahead, it is presumed the year-end will lead to matters normalizing. Until then, Universities can start virtual classes and resume the studies at least. Later on, when the pandemic is eliminated, the students can come back and have their share of fun at the campus. Until that time, the authorities will work hard to manage things peacefully.