According to the Mitchell Institute Report by Peter Hurley, around 614268 international students in Australia in 2020. However, due to the covid-19 pandemic, a lot of them went back to their home countries. The move was encouraged by the Australian Government as it would be expensive to stay in the country. However, now as the travel restrictions are being eased worldwide, the international students in Australia want to come back. Over thousands of students, who are stuck in their home country, have appealed to the Australian Government for travel exemptions. According to an education peak body, over 140000 international students are trying to get back to Australia. The students’ primary concern is that online education’s quality doesn’t match up to the money they have to pay.
But will they be able to come back?
The chances of international students coming back to the country look pretty slim right now. In December 2020, Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory of Australia conducted a pilot program. Around 70 international students were brought back as a part of this initiative. The move was deemed successful by the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) as proper safety measures were followed. The students had to isolate themselves for two weeks in the University’s Quarantine Facility and test negative for Covid-19.
However, the Premier of Victoria, Charles Andrews, does not favor bringing back all the international students. More than 12000 international students signed the petition for travel exemptions. They agreed to follow all the quarantine measures. But Andrews reportedly said at a press conference held on 18th January 2021 that there were minimal chances of these students returning. He expressed concern over the health issues and whether or not all of these students can safely quarantine. He might have received backlash for his comment on how most international students won’t be able to return to Australia. This is mainly because Australia’s Economy is devastated as the international students were the country’s biggest exports.
Reason for return
The students have expressed concern over the quality of the online classes conducted by various universities in Australia. Moreover, many students do not have online classes, so they should be allowed back into the country. The students were agitated about how cricket teams and their entourages were allowed into the country. Still, the Australian Government turned a blind eye when it came to international students. The petition also hinted at how the international students’ return was crucial for reviving its economy. The international students are ready to quarantine their respective student’s buildings and vowed to occupy any stranded Australian’s place.
The students have also pointed out that the Australian Government is not doing enough. The pandemic is a global issue. While the universities in other countries are issuing clear notices about international students’ return, that is not Australia’s case. The students have complained that the Australian Government is keeping them in the dark during such challenging times. This issue is now trending on Twitter. The hashtags ‘#BringUsBackToAus’ and ‘#LetUsBackToAus’ trend currently on the social media platform.
Slashed down international arrivals
The Federal Government of Australia has recently reduced the number of international arrivals in the country. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the number of international arrivals would be reduced by 50% in Queensland, Western Australia, and New South Wales. This was to be followed until 15th February. This decision was taken after the news of the UK’s new covid variant was announced. To avoid this strain entering and infecting the Australians, the Government took this decision. The strain is reportedly 70% more transmissible than the original strain, and hence, the Government does not want to take any risks.
This decision will further lower the chances of international students coming back to their host country.
However, the Australian body for International Education is advocating for these students and want them back. They are especially stressing about bringing back the students who are about to complete their degrees.
Student accommodation providers are ready
The student accommodation provider is trying to convince the Australian Government to let the international students fly back to the country. Most of them rent out studio apartments, which are perfect for the students to quarantine in. It will solve the Government’s concern over whether the students will be able to quarantine themselves or not. Scape, which is one of the largest student accommodation provider, is in favor of the students coming back. The operations manager of Scape, Jenna Weber, said that if the students choose their services, it will not bottleneck the places reserved for Australians returning home.
Daniel Andrew’s Government is considering this alternative. It will solve a lot of their problems and revive the economy. However, these places need to strictly follow the covid-19 security measures as it is not possible for the police to guard every hotel.
Plans to be made for the students’ return?
While the Australian Federal Government has asked each of the states to draw up plans to quarantine the international students safely, nothing has been substantial. An official from the Education Department has reported that such techniques will be executed only after a significant number of Australians are home.
The two major regions of Australia that have been badly affected by the international students’ departure are victoria and New South Wales. While 56824 students have left Victoria, 60000 students have gone back to New South Wales’s home country. This data has been provided by the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment. The department has said that the statistics contain both the students who are about to start their course and the ones who are about to complete theirs. It has left thousands of people unemployed and a significant loss in revenue.
The Government is trying to come up with a decision soon. But the international students of Australian Universities are losing their calm.