Canberra universities press for more urgent action to return international students to campuses

Michael Weaver 14 May 2021 16
Group of international students at University of Canberra

How long will it be before we see international students return to campus life in Canberra? Photo: File.

The Australian National University (ANU) and University of Canberra (UC) will continue pressing the ACT Government to develop a plan for the safe return of international students following the latest assumptions that Australia’s borders will remain closed until the middle of 2022.

Both ANU and UC have been working with the ACT Government and Federal Government to find ways to return international students since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, and is pressing for them to return before the beginning of second semester in July this year.

ANU had offered to provide its on-campus residential facilities to safely quarantine its returning international students, as well as returning Australians, but this proposal was deemed unsuitable because it did not adhere to ACT Health’s “non-negotiable hotel quarantine accommodation requirements”.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt again spoke out about the lack of government support for universities to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in the wake of the 2021-2022 Federal Budget that was handed down this week.

“With Australia’s borders closed for the foreseeable future, ANU is the canary in the coalmine,” wrote Professor Schmidt in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

“The cumulative effect of border closures on international student numbers will lead to other universities catching up with my university’s budget woes this year, and worse in the years beyond. This will have a crippling effect on Australia’s post-pandemic recovery.”

Cyclist riding along path on campus at Australian National University

It was quiet at ANU’s usually bustling Kambri precinct last week. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A spokesperson for the University of Canberra said its primary focus is the safety of its students who are anxious about returning to Canberra.

“Many of our international students continue to study online and are, in general, doing well,” said the spokesperson. “But they are anxious to return to Canberra to continue with their studies on campus and have indicated their willingness to follow all protocols to ensure their safe return.”

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said keeping international students locked out of on-campus learning until mid-2022 poses very serious challenges for the nation’s universities.

“With assumptions around borders being shut until mid-2022 now baked into the Budget, the picture for universities will get worse,” she said. “There will be significant flow-on effects for the nation’s research capacity and jobs inside and outside universities.

“Australia’s university sector cannot sustain these losses without serious damage to national productivity and the country’s knowledge base.”

The sector took a $1.8 billion revenue hit in 2020, while ANU reported a financial deficit of $162.4 million last year.

Universities Australia conservatively estimates at least another $2 billion will be lost in 2021, against 2019 actual operating revenue.

It is estimated ANU contributes around $1.04 billion each year to the ACT economy through having students as customers, employees and tenants.


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Ms Jackson said Australia’s universities would need to work together to develop a plan to safely return international students to on-campus classes.

“Governments across all jurisdictions need to come together with universities to develop a robust plan for the safe return of international students,” she said. “The plan would mean the careful quarantine of students from low-risk countries.”

Professor Schmidt said time is of the essence and ANU will continue doing whatever it can to bring students back to Canberra.

“It’s absolutely imperative we open our national border and return our international students as soon as we safely can,” he said. “Universities have plans in place to do this safely and are ready to act. We just need commitment from the government to act on them.”


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16 Responses to Canberra universities press for more urgent action to return international students to campuses
Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:32 am 21 May 21

The universities refer generally to “international” students but we all know they mean Chinese students.

I have already said on another post on this blog that Chinese students (and Chinese tourists) won’t be coming back and this has wiped out important export markets for Australia.

The biggest export market we have is iron ore and it appears to be the next to get the chop:

https://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/australian-economy/china-to-step-up-domestic-iron-ore-mining-in-fresh-swipe-at-australia/news-story/72d6990f7a1c16d3e177762329afc25e

Coal sent to China is already being restricted (much to the delight of the climate warmists) yet China continues to build new coal-fired power stations with impunity.

Deborah Gale Deborah Gale 9:22 pm 20 May 21

Instead of chasing the big $$ from the international students ANU and UC should focus on quality education for Australian students.

Nylex Nylex 3:10 pm 20 May 21

I bet the thing they miss the most is giving fantasy passes to extremely poor and obviously plagiarised work.

Acton Acton 7:25 am 18 May 21

The UC says international students continue to study online and are doing well. So there is no need to risk the health of Australians by the ANU bringing in hordes of disease carrying and disease spreading students from covid ravaged areas. Just as tourists are being kept out, so too should foreign students. Budgetry problems caused by massive construction work at the ANU do not justify exemptions.

Mandy Savery Mandy Savery 10:03 pm 17 May 21

How about delivering on campus for the students that are here? Or even delivering lectures live online instead of videos from previous years?

    Jessicah Mullins Jessicah Mullins 3:05 pm 20 May 21

    Mandy Savery Both of those things are happening.

    Mandy Savery Mandy Savery 5:51 pm 20 May 21

    Jessicah Mullins not for all courses and all universities

    Jessicah Mullins Jessicah Mullins 6:20 pm 20 May 21

    This is an article/thread about ANU and UC - two Canberra universities - both of which have moved to a hybrid method (at a minimum).

    Pre-recorded lectures were also common prior to COVID. Student attendance has dropped due to lectures being recorded - if I'm optimistic I would hope that students intend to watch them later... but many do not. So the options are: create an assessment dependent on lecture attendance, pre-record, or spend 2 hours presenting to a near empty room.

    Lectures are also the only element that can be pre-recorded. Tutorials are interactive classes, and for most courses/units account for a significant portion of the face-to-face contact.

    Further, your comment implied that tertiary educators are not delivering for domestic students, which is an incredibly unfair and inaccurate representation... it also has nothing to do with facilitating international students travelling to Australia.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:04 pm 16 May 21

Australian universities are dreaming if they think Chinese students are going to come back because the leaders of China won’t let them out of the country. Same goes for Chinese tourists.

Australia has now lost two more of it’s largest export industries.

Why doesn’t the executive of ANU and UC go and protest outside the Chinese Embassy?

    Ko Naing Ko Naing 10:00 pm 17 May 21

    We wanna reopen for border should must cearful .the Chinese government are alawy thinking to do bad things.

Rachael Axford Rachael Axford 8:08 pm 16 May 21

Our universities shouldn’t have to depend on foreign sources of income to survive!!

Shawn Mulgrue Shawn Mulgrue 8:01 pm 16 May 21

How about you let Australian students in then?

Ol L Ol L 3:30 pm 16 May 21

While the sun shined they didn’t put $ aside for a rainy day and now there crying poor.

    dukethunder dukethunder 6:56 pm 16 May 21

    They did. They’re greedy and addicted to revenue from foreign students. Let them bleed.

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