Universities consider chartering planes for international students

In the UK, the University of Bolton has made plans to fly in students from India, China and before the new semester starts in September. 

“We will ensure that from the moment they leave their home… their safety is paramount

Similar plans have been made or are being considered by universities in Northern Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. 

Speaking during a British Council webinar about the future of transnational education, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter and the UK’s International Education Champion, Steve Smith, said that the key issue of the pandemic is how it is going to affect people’s ability to travel. 

“We are looking at chartering planes in the autumn to bring students from other parts of the world,” he said.  

“Because if they can’t travel on commercial flights, if that is the case then TNE will be more of an interesting option for us because frankly, people may not be able to travel. I think it’s that balance that’s key.”

Universities are stepping in, not only to get students onto flights but also to support them with other parts of their journey onto campus. 

For example, the University of Bolton has been working with Manchester Airport and Bolton Council to organise airport pick-up, onward travel by dedicated coaches, and quarantine support for students.

George Holmes, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Bolton, said that students’ safety would be paramount throughout their entire journey and when they arrive on campus.

“The University of Bolton is open for international students. They are an incredibly important part of our institution,” he said. 

“We will ensure that from the moment they leave their home in whatever country they are from, that their safety is paramount.

“We will assist and support international students on the entire journey, ensuring that they remain within their own ‘bubble’ from the moment they set off until the moment they come out of quarantine in the UK,” he added.

At Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, a flight has been chartered from to bring students from Beijing to Northern Ireland in September. 

All students who currently hold an offer for Queen’s and INTO Queen’s – and who meet the conditions associated with their offer – are eligible for the flight.

It is also open to current students returning to Belfast to start their next academic year. Safety is still a concern. 

“Students are required to take a Covid-19 test 48 hours before flight departure. They are required to provide evidence of the test in order to board the flight,” a statement on the university’s website reads.

The chartering of flights is not only being used to assist the pool of incoming international students. The approach will also help existing students return to universities and resume their studies.

SBS Punjabi reported that The University of Canberra and the Australian National University are set to fly in 350 students in July as part of a pilot scheme backed by The federal and Australian Capital Territory governments

“International students… are an incredibly important part of our institution”

The pilot has been seen as a first step in resurrecting Australia’s billion-dollar international education sector.

“The plan will see 350 international students landing in the first flight in Canberra in the middle of July ahead of the second semester,” vice-chancellor of The University of Canberra, Paddy Nixon told the outlet.

“They will be subjected to mandatory quarantine at hotels in Canberra which will be partly paid for by us and the ACT government,” added Nixon.

Earlier this month The PIE reported that Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand has been considering the use of chartered flights to bring students safely into the country.

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