Under the plan – proposed by the state in early June – international students will enter the South Australia and quarantine for two weeks at a facility in the city of Salisbury.
“International students add so much to South Australia’s multicultural fabric along with the clear economic benefits”
South Australia’s premier, Steven Marshall, welcomed the approval from the federal government, reiterating that international education is a significant part of the state’s economy, contributing over $2 billion in 2019.
“International students add so much to South Australia’s multicultural fabric along with the clear economic benefits for our CBD and our state overall, with every three students leading to the creation of one job – in 2019, almost 20,000 jobs were underpinned by international education, which is massive for our state,” he said.
Marshall explained that the health and safety of South Australians is the government’s “number one priority”. He acknowledged that there was still more work to be done with the Commonwealth and education providers.
“But it’s important to note that professor Spurrier and her team at SA Health, along with South Australia Police, have been central to the formation of the plan, which meets all the necessary protocols required by the federal government,”Marshall said.
“It’s also important to note that no returning Australian will be impacted by the plan, as it will be done outside the current caps, and the institutions and students will bear the costs of flights and quarantine.”
“It demonstrates what is possible when health authorities, government, industry and our universities cooperate in achieving the safe return of students”
Universities Australia’s chief executive Catriona Jackson congratulated South Australia on becoming the first state set to safely welcome back international students in 2021.
“This follows last November’s pilot when 63 students successfully returned to Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory,” she said.
“It demonstrates what is possible when health authorities, government, industry and our universities cooperate in achieving the safe return of students from low-risk nations – without taking spaces from Australians wanting to return from overseas.”
Jackson said that historically, international students have played a significant role in the cultural and economic life of South Australia and that there are currently more than 10,000 higher education students studying with South Australian institutions who are outside the country.
Restrictions around entry to Australia have severely impacted international students, with a recent report Council of International Students Australia finding that 93% of international students stranded overseas have experienced significant mental health issues.
“We want to welcome them back as quickly as possible so they can join their Australian classmates on campus. We hope to see more states and territories go down the same path as South Australia in the near future,” she added.
A blueprint for other states
Karyn Kent, chief executive of StudyAdelaide, told The PIE that there will be an implementation phase before students are welcomed back to Adelaide.
She explained this means institutions can keep their students informed at each stage of the plan. It is anticipated that students will return to Adelaide in the second half of the year.
“The plan’s approval gives a ‘blueprint’ for other states to follow when preparing their plans”
“This is the first of, hopefully, many ongoing programs to return students to Australia,” Kent told The PIE.
“While South Australia is delighted to be the first state to receive approval for the plan to return students, we hope this is the first step to returning many international students studying across Australia given the significant disruption to their study journey.
“There are still further steps to undertake before the students start arriving, the plan’s approval gives a ‘blueprint’ for other states to follow when preparing their plans. We look forward to more good news for international students from the other states,” she added.
IEAA chief executive officer Phil Honeywood told The PIE given that the South Australian government is facing a state election in March, the plan is a “politically brave move” on their part.
“We also expect that the biggest study destination state, New South Wales, will receive federal government approval of their student return plan in the next week or so.”
Honeywood said that the international education sector in all eight states and territories has been “very good” at sharing ideas on their respective student return plans.
“Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of political will forthcoming from some state governments.
“We are therefore hopeful that the federal government’s rapid approval of the South Australian and NSW plans will generate some momentum for other states to not risk losing market share,” he added.