Australia's borders are about to open for... international students?

The trial will see 350 students flown in before hotel quarantine.

By Bloomberg News, July 3 2020
Australia's borders are about to open for... international students?

While Australia’s borders remain firmly closed to overseas visitors, the government plans to make a notable exception as it races to save its fourth-biggest export: education.

In time for the new semester, authorities are working on a plan to allow 350 international students to be flown into Canberra, the nation’s capital, later this month to resume classes. Under a trial program that could be rolled out nationally, the universities and territory government will foot the bill for their two-week mandatory quarantine in hotels.

It’s a sign of just how reliant Australia’s higher education sector has become on overseas students, who make up roughly a quarter of all enrollments – the second-highest ratio in the world after Luxembourg – and 40% of student revenues due to the higher fees they are charged.

But the extraordinary steps to help the $38 billion export industry recover from the coronavirus lockdown may not be enough to guarantee its long-term future.

Australia has fallen behind the U.S., U.K. and France in the highly competitive market by opening fewer offshore campuses. And with 37% of its international students at universities coming from China in 2019, it serves as a warning to other nations of the perils of growing too dependent on a single market.

Relations with Beijing are in the deep freeze after Prime Minister Scott Morrison led calls for an inquiry into the source of the Covid-19 outbreak. China has since warned its citizens they face the risk of racist attacks in Australia if they study or holiday there.

“It’s a really risky situation for Australia’s universities because we’re dealing with two very major events” with the virus and increasing diplomatic tensions, said Angela Lehmann, education analyst at the Lygon Group, a Melbourne-based consultancy. “We are on a precipice at the moment.”

It may be several months before the impact of China’s warning shows up in enrollment numbers, which had already been plateauing for the past three years, but the education sector’s most pressing concern is to get as many overseas students as possible into Australia in time for the July semester.

“We don’t have a one year problem – we have a two-, three-, four-year problem,” if students are unable to return to Australia and the delays drag out across their degrees, said Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, the peak body for the sector. The group forecasts lost revenue of as much as $16 billion by 2023.

The clock is ticking

From a pool of thousands, the two universities participating in the pilot program must whittle the list of students down to 350 through an online application process.

Those chosen will have to make their own way to a departure city, presumably somewhere in Asia, that’s not yet been named for a chartered flight to Australia, before completing the mandatory two-week quarantine ahead of the semester starting on July 27.

The program could yet come adrift if final approval isn’t granted by the federal government.

Morrison insists that states and territories that have closed their borders must first reopen to ensure domestic students from other parts of the country can return to class before international students are allowed in. That may scupper South Australia’s own plan to fly in international students, after it backflipped on a decision to lift border restrictions.

The importance of the sector to the Australian economy is clear. As an export, education ranks only behind iron ore, coal and natural gas.

A 2018 London Economics report showed that every $1 spent on research at Australia’s Group of Eight Universities produced almost $10 back in benefits to the private sector and the wider economy.

The fees paid by overseas students help prop up “a lot of the fundamental research” in Australian universities, said Michael Spence, vice chancellor of the University of Sydney, where nearly a quarter of the entire student cohort come from China. “The current situation has revealed how vulnerable to shock the system is.”

The University of Sydney has enough cash reserves and borrowing capacity and is undertaking significant savings measures including reducing capital expenditure, said Spence. As it stands, many institutions have slashed subject offerings while others have axed hundreds of staff.

Still, Australia has a compelling advantage over global competitors, according to Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia – the country's success to date in containing the coronavirus to just over 7,500 cases and 104 deaths.

Provided the pandemic eases, Australia’s academic year beginning in February should also give it an edge over Northern Hemisphere institutions that typically begin in August or September, with students keen to get their studies underway.

If Australia can “provide a more comprehensive narrative about our genuine care for international students’ welfare, then we’ll be better placed against many other” countries, Honeywood said. “If we move quickly.”

This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1141

I think this is much more than Canberra, Western Sydney Uni also is part of it as well as South Australia; but it has gone awfully quite this last week with only two weeks to go.

money talks

We need all the students & tourists we can get, now. Jobkeeper/jobseeker far to generous & must be wound up. EMployers can't even get applicants for jobs that pay less than $750/week even if part time or casual. Insanity rules. Wait until we have to start paying back for all this excess.

adi
adi

28 May 2020

Total posts 28

The boarders are going to be open not only for students ... AU gov will allow businesses to bring migrant workers too.

(that was published on SBS news: Australian businesses prepared to cover quarantine costs to recruit migrants who can fill skill shortages)

We'll see students and migrant workers coming here but citizens will not be allowed to leave.

23 May 2012

Total posts 45

If students and migrant workers are allowed to enter Australia on the condition that someone other than the government pays for quarantine, why are Australian citizens and/or residents not allowed to exit and return on the same conditions (ie that they pay for quarantine themselves)?

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1141

cdirnber I think they will be paying for themselves from now on. The issue of exit is whether we have the capacity to handle the volumes of quarantine on return (students are quite few in number). It is quite stretched with a few hundred a day now being out up for two weeks. If it moves to several thousand a day then things get tricky. WA thought of putting an ankle tracking bracelet on people but I suspect the community wouldn't like that.

adi
adi

28 May 2020

Total posts 28

Are you saying the country that just approved a record $270 billion military spending package (long-range missiles, armed drones and anti-submarine warfare) has no capacity to handle 14 day quarantine? OK, I agree to pay for it...

27 Aug 2013

Total posts 29

Adi, there simply isn't enough hotel room inventory to support 14-day quarantine for every single person that would arrive into the country if borders were reopened for non-essential travel. Whether you could pay for it yourself is not the issue. Serving the 14 days in iso at home instead is also not feasible - too many examples already of people breaking iso rules.

adi
adi

28 May 2020

Total posts 28

Let's see, New Zealand introduce alert level 4 on 25th of March. Since then they have “do not travel” advice only (safetravel .govt .nz). Figures released to RNZ showed 60 people left the country after it was introduced and returned before May (nzherald). I guess AU can handle similar numbers.

If quarantine and payment is in place this will surely deter holiday makers from traveling overseas, and allow those who need to leave the country for months or indefinitely, do so without asking permission.

Would you go for a holiday and then pay $2000-3000 per person for 14 day quarantine?

05 Jun 2020

Total posts 32

@ausdt - in 2016 there was approx 250,000 hotel rooms in Australia. So perhaps you're right. Maybe Australia's hotel room inventory isn't sufficient to manage all returning travellers. However, that still doesn't justify the gov's decision to stop people from LEAVING the country if they don't intend on returning.

05 Jun 2020

Total posts 32

cdirnber - my thoughts exactly. The government openly acknowledge that by following the quarantine protocol it's safe to travel. And yet... we're kept on a leash. It's not right.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1141

Lough much the same in Canada as well various provincial borders shut and only essential travel out.

05 Jun 2020

Total posts 32

partickk - I see. Are you in Canada?

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1141

Lough no I'm not in Canada but I do have access to the Canadian government website that spells all this out.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Jun 2017

Total posts 6

My sister in laws son in China was last week issued an Australian Visa to come to University in Western Australia.

07 Aug 2020

Total posts 1

But WA border is shut till now.

07 Mar 2017

Total posts 46

Far from an "extraordinary decision." It's no different from other reopenings, such as borders, clubs, spas and restaurants.

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P
P

17 Jan 2018

Total posts 86

Specifically re students i am certain that Chinese students are the largest foreign contingent. The fact is many no longer want to come or return to Australia for many different reasons, the number 1 being advice from the Chinese Govt. They have been badly treated and will look at more welcoming destinations such as Singapore (once C19 restrictions are lifted) as Australian/Sino relations continue to plummet. Sad because this was one of the few significant "exports" Australia had to China that brought the countries closer together.

P
P

17 Jan 2018

Total posts 86

And now they are going to be charged $3000. Another reason not to go to OZ.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1141

P the student arrangement will be for existing students from a range of countries and the cost will be shared among the host university, state, and themselves. I think a few from Hong Kong will be in the group as well.


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