21 August 2020

ACT won't open to international students yet

| Dominic Giannini
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International students at the University of Canberra

Adelaide is set to host a pilot return of international students two months after Canberra was forced to cancel its plans to bring 350 international students back. Photo: Supplied.

South Australia has announced a pilot program to bring 300 international students to Adelaide at the start of September, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr has said the ACT won’t join in, saying it’s not a race to get international students back to the Territory.

The South Australia pilot program was announced a month after Canberra was forced to postpone its own trial program with ANU and the University of Canberra.

Mr Barr conceded that Canberra was not in the position to accept international students at the moment.

“When the time is right and it is safe to do so and we can manage the quarantine arrangements we will do so, but that time is not now,” he said.

READ ALSO Two men fined for breaching COVID-19 quarantine

“It is not a case of [Canberra] missing out. It is not a race. But obviously taking international flights is something that we are not doing at the moment.”

One of the hurdles to bringing hundreds of international students to the ACT is the resources required to effectively manage their quarantining, a concern exacerbated after it was revealed that 99 per cent of Victoria’s current cases are related to two hotel quarantine programs.

There are currently 481 Canberrans quarantining in hotels or at home, 383 of whom are returned travellers from Victoria. This includes the 97 Canberrans who have arrived in the Territory after being stuck at the NSW border for almost a week.

The proposed pilot program for Canberran universities would have brought 350 international students back to the Territory to quarantine – or almost three-quarters of the current number of people quarantining.

READ ALSO $1500 payments to help Canberrans quarantine

“One of the factors for us here is the sheer number of people we have in quarantine at the moment and they are all domestic in large part at the moment,” Mr Barr said.

“We have people we have brought back from Victoria, we have lots of other people who for perfectly legitimate reasons have had to travel but now are in their quarantine period and that needs to be effectively monitored. That is one of the lessons of the experience in Australia in recent times.”

Mr Barr also noted that as the academic year progresses the less value there is in welcoming students back to Australian universities.

“I think we [are getting] to the point where there is no value to the universities. It is too far into the second semester so it is more likely to be something that would happen for a new academic year, but the circumstances have to be right to be able to manage the students in their quarantine.”

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