International students could soon be allowed to return to New South Wales under a pilot program due to begin in the second half of the year.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced the plan on Thursday 10/6, which will initially see 250 students arriving per fortnight.
Mr Perrottet said that figure would increase to 500 students per fortnight by the end of the year and would not interfere with current hotel quarantine arrangements.
“Importantly not one returning Australian will not get a seat on a plane as a result of this plan,” he said.
“We will be running this alongside the 3,000 returning Australians that come into our hotel quarantine system every week.”
Mr Perrottet says on arrival, the students will be required to quarantine in purpose-built student accommodation under the same rules as for all international arrivals.
Overseas students are to be selected by their universities based on “a range of criteria” and individual circumstances, with priority given to higher degree research students.
The plan is to be paid for by the education industry while the state government is to provide governance and operational support.
He says the plan is safe, secure and nation-leading.
MR Perrottet said the pilot program had been approved by NSW Health and NSW Police, and its proposal to the federal government had received “strong support back” and would be signed off on in the coming days.
Convener of the state’s Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, Professor Barney Glover, has welcomed the plan.
“This is a great partnership between industry, government and the community to bring those students here to contribute to Australia and we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to make a great deal of difference for those students but what’s more important about today is the message that it sends to our students offshore is that Australian universities are looking forward to welcoming those students back to Australia in the very near future.”
The Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, says for those whose businesses rely on international students, this proposal signals hope.
“Oh this is definitely the light at the end of the tunnel for all those people for who international students create jobs whether it’s a cafe in Newtown, where there’s a visitor economy that comes over time with international students and, of course, the universities themselves employ thousands of people across New South Wales.”
The first international students will arrive in NSW on chartered flights in the next six to eight weeks before the program later transitions to commercial flights.