International Education Association of Australia (IEAA), a peak education body is vowing to “pay whatever it takes” to create a dedicated hotel quarantine program for international students that would allow them to fly into the country.
The CEO of IEAA, Phil Honeywood believes “There’s no reason why we can’t have charter flights bringing these students in, walking them across the tarmac into separate quarantine facilities that are not going to be competing with the hotel quarantine for Australian returnees.” It comes as new figures reveal the drastic fall in overseas students studying in Australia during the pandemic, and the billions of dollars in lost revenue it has cost the economy.
The latest government figures show there are currently 374,000 primary student visa holders in the country. That’s down from a peak of 580,000 shortly before the pandemic began, and 495,000 last March.
“The industry is prepared to pay whatever it takes for additional Australian Defence Force and for police to ensure that it all happens properly, with only one point of entry and one point of exit”, notes Honeywood.
While the number of students in the country was down, university enrolments of international students had only dipped by 5 per cent, with many studying online from abroad. However this hasn’t accounted for the discretionary spending that often accompanies these students. With Honeywood surmising that “We’re down from $40 billion a year in 2019 to just on $30 billion, which includes tuition fees, accommodation costs, entertainment and all of the wonderful ways in which these young people spend money in our economy.”
Education Minister Alan Tudge, said the the government would consider any proposals from universities when approached by the Australian Broadcast Corporation. “But it must be quarantine beds above those already in existence and must be signed off by the state’s chief medical officer,” he said.
Mr Honeywood said this meant Australia was falling well behind other countries in the competitive international education market, with “Canada and the UK, our two biggest competitors, have kept their borders open for a whole year and are flying international students in for face-to-face teaching in the universities,” Even, “New Zealand is now taking 1,000 returnee international students”.
Comparatively, Australia has only taken 63 students from overseas, who arrived in Darwin on a charter flight last November and spent two weeks in the Howard Springs quarantine facility before being allowed to attend classes in person.
Despite education being Australia’s fourth largest export, the federal government has made it clear it is prioritising the 40,000-odd Australians still trying to return from overseas.
Source: ABC News