The University of Adelaide has announced a 20% fee rebate for students who could not return to Australia due to border closures, after Western Sydney University, Bond University and Griffith University launched similar initiatives.

Interim deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide Jennie Shaw said the institution had recognised that “a number of our continuing and commencing international students remain unable to join us due to current border restrictions”.

“We are committed to supporting all our students, no matter where they are located, and we acknowledge the importance of our offshore international students as valued members of our University community,” she said.

While international students in country have been able to access the institution’s academic and financial Student Support Package, offshore students have missed out on additional support measures, University of Adelaide SRC president Oscar Ong indicated.

“We will continue to work with the university to ensure the best outcome for all of our students”

“A 20% Covid-19 Offshore Study Fee Rebate is [being] introduced to support continuing and commencing offshore undergraduate and postgraduate coursework international students who are unable to join us on campus due to border restrictions and face reduced access to course materials, course selections and support,” he said.

“We are here for all of our students in this difficult time and will continue to work with the university to ensure the best outcome for all of our students.”

The Council of International Student Australia has commended the move, but has called for more institutions to follow, citing struggles with online study offshore, unsatisfactory learning quality and students finding it difficult to justify tuition fees of up to AUS$40,000 per year.

“By offering this fee rebate, the University of Adelaide has shown their commitment towards a fair and quality experience for international students through tangible actions,” CISA president Belle Lim said.

“We hope to see more universities and education providers take similar actions to offer relief for international students that couldn’t participate in the Australian campus experience due to the pandemic.”

Additionally, CISA called for education providers to abolish the late payment fee and offer payment plans to order to relieve the financial stress international students are currently facing.

“This will encourage students to complete their study at an Australian institution and lead to a better education outcome,” Lim continued.

“Most students are very keen/desperate to return to Australia and resume their study on campus.”

While universities have offered hardship relief payment earlier this year for several hundred dollars under strict eligibility criteria, it is not clear how much money has gone to students and how many students have received the payment, she added.

Along with fee rebates, students studying from overseas would also like more concessions being given to their circumstances, including extended Confirmation of Enrolment, payment plan, removal of late payment fee and online case support, she noted.

“We are also concerned about the reduced student support capacity at institutions such as counselling or case support that are essential for students’ wellbeing,” Lim told The PIE News.

“Many students are feeling disappointed at being treated as “cash cows””

“Many students are feeling disappointed at being treated as ‘cash cows’, and the general Australian community sentiment towards international students can be quite negative – we think the sector and government has to adjust their messaging.”

According to the Department of Home Affairs, approximately 22% of enrolled international students are currently stuck overseas.

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