The Australian National University (ANU) could end up spending $20 million to help students affected by the Australian Government’s travel restrictions from mainland China after the university offered to reimburse international students for expenses incurred.
The university will pay up to $5000 under the Travel Restrictions Relief Bursary for each student who was unable to arrive in Canberra to commence their studies in February. Students will have to provide proof of travel expenses that were incurred as a result of the ban. Accommodation, IT equipment or services, Internet subscriptions, daily subsistence and other reasonable and related incidental expenses will also be included.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Grady Venville acknowledged the distress the ban has caused and thanked the students for their patience and goodwill.
“We are thinking of you all and cannot wait to welcome you back to our campus. We are one community. We are one ANU,” she said in an email to students on Thursday (5 March).
“Together we will help each other work through these exceptionally tough times and circumstances.”
In early February, the ANU said that 4000 of its 5000-strong Chinese cohort were stuck in China and unable to get to the university because of the travel ban.
The announcement of the bursary came after news that thousands of Chinese students arrived in Australia through a third country in order to circumvent the travel restrictions placed on mainland China.
Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram told Radio National that these students were fully compliant with the policy’s intent.
“They got themselves out of mainland China, went into a country where the coronavirus was far less prevalent, if not present at all [and] quarantined themselves for two weeks before coming here,” he said.
“We are delighted that those students were able to actually get here and since 2 February we have had about 25,000 Chinese students arrive back in Australia. That is quite a successful outcome for our university sector but also from a health point of view.”
However, students who arrived before the 24 February start-date will be assessed on an ad hoc basis, the university said.
“We will assess each grant application on a case-by-case basis and will continue to show the same generosity and flexibility that we have applied to all students affected by the travel restrictions,” Professor Venville said.
The new bursary is on top of already announced tuition fee concessions for commencing and continuing students who were unable to arrive at the ANU by 24 February.
“This includes hardship scholarships for commencing students and the option to re-take a failed course at no cost for continuing students,” Professor Venville said.
The bursary is only available for international students.
Students have until 3 June to withdraw from these courses without financial penalty. More details about the bursary are available from the ANU.