ANU and UC plan airlift to bring 350 international students back to uni

Dominic Giannini 18 June 2020 45
Uni students at UC

A pilot program to fly 350 international students into Canberra is expected to take place in mid-July. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT Government has given the green light to the University of Canberra (UC) and the Australian National University (ANU) to charter a flight from an Asia-Pacific country to bring currently enrolled international students back to Australia by mid-July.

UC Vice-Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon outlined the plan to ABC Radio this morning (18 June). Under the pilot program, up to 350 international students could return to Australia.

“It is for students who were unable to make it back before the pandemic struck, so these are international students who are already signed up for the university,” he said.

Australia shut its borders due to COVID-19 in March.

“[These students] are in the later years of university and are really looking to complete their degrees, post-graduate degrees and research degrees. We have in excess of 400 [students] that were registered for the university and expecting to come back to Canberra.”

According to the ANU, around 2,800 international students – or 40 per cent of their international enrolments – remain offshore.

Under the pilot program, students will have to pay their own airfares, but the universities will be paying for hotel accommodation and meals during quarantine, ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt told Radio National.

“We are trying to make sure that it is people who would benefit the most, and the pilot [program] is meant to figure out the logistics,” he said.

“[We are] working to make sure quarantine works and that it is safe for the Australians but it is also safe for the students because putting students away for 14-days and forgetting about them is not a good thing.

“We need to absolutely ensure they are looked after and that we can advance their studies … at the same time.”

The same isolation and health protocols would apply to international students under the scheme that were in place for the Australian residents who recently arrived in the ACT from India and Nepal.

Professor Schmidt said while there is a small chance that a student would have COVID-19, there is no chance that it could spread in the community.

“We know there will be some chance of someone having an infection but the quarantine will be so strong that there will be no chance of it getting out into our community.”

Professor Nixon also rejected the premise that these flights were being organised for financial reasons. The proposal comes a week after UC reported it would lose up to $33 million in 2020, and ANU is bracing for job cuts and redundancies because of the pandemic.

“At this stage, it is not about money, and I take quite significant issue with that,” he said. “These are students that have already signed up to the university, these are not students that were looking to start at the university.

“That would be next year and that would be after a significant process. This is about following through on our commitment to these students.

“In the long term, the universities play a critical part in our economy, and certainly [international students] are a part of it and all universities will be considering how to operate into the future but international students have to be apart of that because we are an internationally engaged country.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously said the ACT was well placed to undertake the pilot program, ruling out any state or territory that had closed its borders to other Australians.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the Prime Minister had called the ACT’s plan an “excellent proposal”.

“We have done a lot of work with the universities over the last six weeks or so to have a really well-developed proposal that has been before the Commonwealth,” Mr Barr said last week.

“I am confident that given we have not closed our borders to other Australians that we are the best-placed jurisdiction to manage that first international student pilot back into Australia.”

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham told the National Press Club yesterday (17 June) that Australia’s borders were likely to remain closed until at least 2021.


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45 Responses to ANU and UC plan airlift to bring 350 international students back to uni
Kim Kim 2:18 pm 20 Jun 20

Lucy Baker, I hope the ACT ratepayers would be contributing to bringing these students back. They bring their diversity and contribute $billions to our economy every year.

    JC JC 6:21 pm 21 Jun 20

    Kim if you want to reply to someone it makes it fare easier if you click the reply button under that persons post rather than create a new post for each reply.

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 6:10 pm 19 Jun 20

It would make more economic sense to bring in backpackers – to pick our fruit & veg which is about to rot on the vine… plus they work outdoors- far less COVID risk.

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 6:07 pm 19 Jun 20

Huh? Local ABC reported that ACT Govt (eg ACT ratepayers) would be contributing to the hotel costs…

Tammy Britt Welsh Tammy Britt Welsh 4:46 pm 19 Jun 20

As long as both universities pay a bond (5 million) to the ACT government to cover any costs associated with an outbreak. ACT tax payers should not pay the bill if C-19 impacts us again

Fred Pilcher Fred Pilcher 3:39 pm 19 Jun 20

This is what happens when you turn universities into businesses.

MERC600 MERC600 2:42 pm 19 Jun 20

“”up to 350 international students could return to Australia.””
What could go wrong ?

Am thinkin’ I might just add a few extra things to the weekend grocery list , like 4 litres of hand sanitiser, back seat load of toilet paper, and booze.
And King Oscar sardines, if they’re on special.

    JC JC 5:37 pm 22 Jun 20

    Indeed what could go wrong provided they go it into the required period of isolation.

Ben Hall Ben Hall 1:34 pm 19 Jun 20

As long as they isolate for a solid Month not 2 weeks

Peter Major Peter Major 11:06 am 19 Jun 20

If they can afford that then they can lower there fees for Australian students

Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 8:33 am 19 Jun 20

Fantastic, great idea

David Lane David Lane 9:15 pm 18 Jun 20

And all I ever got from Uni was over-priced beer on Bar night 🤣🤣

Scott Applebee Scott Applebee 9:12 pm 18 Jun 20

So how will the quarantine be enforced? Are these students going to be physically locked inside 24/7 or will it be an honor system?

SP Brogues SP Brogues 9:08 pm 18 Jun 20

Like how they paid for foreign students to vacation in places like Bali so they could circumvent banned country lists.....

Acton Acton 8:49 pm 18 Jun 20

Barr risks the health of the whole Canberra community, but that is secondary to keeping his academic support base happy in an election year. Even though you and I still can’t travel around Australia or overseas he is prepared to let in students from a country where the disease started and has resurfaced. His supporters will say we have an unused $23m Garran Oval pop-up Covid emergency centre as an insurance policy to cover his reckless disregard.

    JC JC 7:46 am 19 Jun 20

    You know it is not a Barr initiative It is federal. And even if it were I fail to see how it is risking anything at all.

    The fact these people are foreigners doesn’t matter at all. I mean to say we are still letting in everyday About the same number of Australians (and yes everyday) who have been living overseas and who will have had exactly the same exposure to COVid as these “dirty” foreign students.

    So long as the students isolate like Australians coming in from overseas there is no health risk from COVID what so ever. And so long as the Australian Or ACT government are not paying for the cost of quarantine on arrival for the students I cannot see what people are carrying on about. Except to make silly political points.

    Tamara Lions Tamara Lions 9:44 am 19 Jun 20

    It is hardly Mr Barr’s sole decision – the Federal Government is approving it. And what of the other States and Territories? It would be ridiculous to exclude ACT unis if the rest of the country is going ahead with bringing international students back. We are in a good position here, and the unis have a million reasons to manage it very carefully.

    Acton Acton 11:26 am 19 Jun 20

    Read the article beyond the headline. It’s a pilot plan. That means only the ACT will be put at risk.

Peter McMahon Peter McMahon 7:51 pm 18 Jun 20

Excellent proposal - WAFJ. It would appear the ANU and UC are over funded. Notwithstanding that issue how dare this be allowed to occur if Australians are still facing travel restrictions in our own country. Barr needs to cancel this approval.

    Michele Woods Michele Woods 8:03 pm 18 Jun 20

    International students course fees would more than pay for their quarantine. They pay a small fortune for education in Australia

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 8:10 pm 18 Jun 20

    Peter McMahon it has Chairman Barr’s stamp of approval

    Peter McMahon Peter McMahon 8:14 pm 18 Jun 20

    Michele Woods Sorry but you missed the bigger issue. HTF can we allow foreign students, particularly from China, into Australia if Australian are not able to freely travel within Australia.

    Peter McMahon Peter McMahon 8:16 pm 18 Jun 20

    Jorge Gatica but does not have mine. Be interesting to run a poll to see how Canberrans feel on the matter.

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 8:31 pm 18 Jun 20

    Michele Woods the fees they normally pay are for education, why should they now include quarantine accommodation??

    Michele Woods Michele Woods 8:39 pm 18 Jun 20

    Because almost all of the tuition fees they pay are profit for the university. Profit which is used to subsidise research, chancellor salary etc. They can either have no student and no profit or pay for quarantine accomodation and have 60% of the profit they normally have (I'm pulling figures out of the air to demonstrate my point).

    KJ Enaj KJ Enaj 8:39 pm 18 Jun 20

    Unfortunately this is not about community health and safety but getting money to pour back in.

    Peter McMahon Peter McMahon 8:47 pm 18 Jun 20

    Michele Woods so for money you are prepared to go back into lockdown. Well I am not. I will repeat this step cannot be condoned until ALL restrictions are lifted Australia wide.

    Michele Woods Michele Woods 8:49 pm 18 Jun 20

    That is not what I said.

    Peter McMahon Peter McMahon 8:56 pm 18 Jun 20

    Michele Woods I am sorry but if we accept your 60% figure lockdown is what we risk.

    Jodie McGuire Jodie McGuire 3:35 am 19 Jun 20

    Peter McMahon As a mature age student studying at the ANU I now realise why we are still left in limbo about Sem 2 details/starting! I’m all for the rights of these students BUT The last thing I want is to put my family at risk if I’m on campus and this backfired and we see community transmission!

    Laura Michelle Laura Michelle 7:13 am 19 Jun 20

    Peter McMahon You know what makes my UC degree feel pretty worthless and useless? The fact that UC made it obvious in pretty much everything they did related to me and other International students that we were university cash points. Their goal was to get us to pay more to subsidize domestic students and other university costs. It was crystal clear this was the only value we added to the campus: AUD$ AUD$ AUD$.

    You're underpaying the university because the focus isn't on education but on funding and finding cash sources... where education is secondary.

    Portia Yeung Portia Yeung 11:44 pm 19 Jun 20

    I think they should pay for everything if they are keen to come back especially those from the CCP- Communist Chinese because 99 % of them are from wealthy families anyway and why our tax payers have to subsidise. We are also putting our medical staffs in great danger which is not necessary.

Bernadette Stanhope Bernadette Stanhope 6:50 pm 18 Jun 20

So must do mandatory random testing on campus.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:43 pm 18 Jun 20

Brian Schmidt’s point in this morning’s interview about the numbers proposed for this trial, compared to the numbers of Australians still returning from overseas was well made, but it still comes down to rigorous quarantine procedures – with no loopholes and exceptions. The recent problems in New Zealand illustrate the importance of the latter point –

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-17/jacinda-ardern-coronavirus-new-zealand-travellers-britain/12364838

Steve Wood Steve Wood 6:30 pm 18 Jun 20

Are they mental... while China is facing another wave the USA cases are still rising this is madness...way to soon.. 2021 with heavy restrictions imposed.

Lynne Audsley Lynne Audsley 4:26 pm 18 Jun 20

“Under the pilot program, students will have to pay their own airfares, but the universities will be paying for hotel accommodation and meals during quarantine, ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt told Radio National.”

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 8:11 pm 18 Jun 20

    Lynne Audsley and the vice chancellor was asked where the students coming from China? He refused to answer so it means yes

    Frances Jane Frances Jane 7:13 pm 19 Jun 20

    Jorge Gatica I'd prefer they come from China than America.

Robert Harrop Robert Harrop 4:08 pm 18 Jun 20

So are the taxpayers going to foot the bill for the chartered flights ?

    Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 8:56 pm 18 Jun 20

    Robert Harrop the article says the students will have to pay for the flight.

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 2:24 pm 18 Jun 20

If this is fair game, it would also be fair game, the “pilot program” to let us out. As things stand, I am unable to visit two of my three children.

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