Will foreign students go back to New South Wales by Q1 2021? The Prime Minister of the United States champions the early return of students, preferably as early as January 2021, with the federal government at the helm. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recently announced that the much-anticipated return of foreign students to Australia will be delayed before people stranded overseas to return home. However, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian wants the state’s boundaries to be opened to international students within six weeks.
As detailed in a press release on 13 November 2020, the national cabinet took the position that quarantine spaces must be placed on the agenda for Australians, including needy Australians, wanting to return home, in Australia. The quarantine room should be given priority. Although we look forward to accepting foreign students and plan on their return, the larger admission of international students cannot be progressed at this time.”
In her Sun-Herald interview, The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Berejiklian wants a third of its quarantine hotel slots to be used by the state to take in foreign students, eligible migrants and specialist staff required by companies. This works for about 1,000 people a week and starts hopefully in January. New South Wales is not capable of raising its quarantine capability by more than 3,000 a week but Berejiklian called on other countries to improve their ability to return to Australia.
“New South Wales wants to look at things that boost our economy, and not just Australia’s return,” she added. “We want to start with that as soon as possible in the new year but clearly it’s up to the federal government to let us do that.”
New South Wales Border Reopening to Boost the Economy
Berejiklian cautioned that universities would risk losing their staff and jobs if the state did not recruit foreign students, adding that last week’s employment statistics showed that New South Wales was the only place where unemployment plummeted (by 0.7%) save for Western Australia (0.1%). “Australia is now dependent on New South Wales to sustain the economy. Melbourne was out of action, and the other states didn’t even do their part. If other states raised their game and saw more returning Aussies, it will encourage the economic powerhouse of New South Wales to draw back students and keep universities hiring people,” she said.
Speaking to SBS News, Chief Executive Officer of the International Education Organisation, Phil Honeywood, said the drive will provide a lifeline for the international education market that has been rocked by Australia’s COVID-19 travel restrictions. Honeywood said that Canada and the United Kingdom have been able to keep their doors intact despite the pandemic.
“If Australia does not soon open its borders to this very large industry—then these young people and their parents are going to vote with their feet and take market share off Australia,” he said, adding that priority should be given to returning foreign students who by “no fault of their own,” have been stranded overseas. “The international education industry has been looking for a prime minister brave enough to come out and show proof of life to our beleaguered industry,” said Honeywood.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, more than 340,000 citizens and permanent residents are trying to return home from overseas. Australian Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said he was open to bringing international students into the future, but the focus had to remain on returning citizens stranded abroad.
“We still have thousands of Australians hoping to get back by Christmas,” he said to Sky News on Nov. 22, 2020. “But if we can see fast enough movement in bringing down that list of returning Australians, then I would like nothing more than to see international students able to get through the proven processes safely.”
Pilot programs for the return of small numbers of international students have already been announced in the Northern Territory, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The ACT and South Australian programs were delayed at the time of writing. Charles Darwin University (CDU) said it was on track to welcome up to 70 international students from Asia on 30 November 2020.