Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has spoken on how to get “international education back on its feet,” arguing that some form of jointly-funded quarantine will likely be necessary.
With strict border restrictions leaving thousands of international students trapped abroad, Universities Australia estimates that the sector faces losses of between $3.1 billion and $4.8 billion this year alone.
As a vital source of income for the Australian economy, state and federal government figures are united on the need to outline a plan – but divided on what form it should take.
“Just like anybody else coming in, [students] would have to go through a quarantine period and that decision has got to be sequenced with whatever arrangements are made in terms of the international border, which I fully support remaining closed for the foreseeable future,” said Andrews.
“But if we can get students back safely, then that’s obviously a smart thing for us to do.”
In May, the government indicated that it will consider exempting international students from border measures as early as July, and invited universities to put forth plans to attract international students.
“We are welcoming of proposals for universities – subject to it being at the same time as their general student populations – to look at means of bringing back through supervised, stringent quarantine, international students,” added Andrews.
Though a pilot program submitted by the Group of Eight – which represents some of Australia’s top institutions – outlined suggestions including pre-departure isolation and strict health checks, the plan does not touch on funding.
Andrews, on the other hand, says that he would like to see a “partnership” model, where funding is split between state governments and the institutions themselves.
“I think I’d want to have a conversation – as I have been – and I want to continue having conversations with unis about that,” he said.
“I think there’s probably a partnership approach and maybe the best thing for us to do.”