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

Dominic Giannini 18 June 2020 39
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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39 Responses to ANU and UC plan airlift to bring 350 international students back to uni
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.

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.

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.

    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??

    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.

    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.

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.....

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?

David Lane David Lane 9:15 pm 18 Jun 20

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

Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 8:33 am 19 Jun 20

Fantastic, great idea

Peter Major Peter Major 11:06 am 19 Jun 20

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

Ben Hall Ben Hall 1:34 pm 19 Jun 20

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

Fred Pilcher Fred Pilcher 3:39 pm 19 Jun 20

This is what happens when you turn universities into businesses.

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

Ti Jay Ti Jay 7:03 pm 21 Jun 20

Well funded...

ANU are increasing some of their fees by over 100%.

So yeah! I suppose you could say that.

Makes Teritiary education even more unaffordable.

Any yes. The travel approval needs to be cancelled.

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