Current priority lies in ensuring safe return of locals
Foreign students will not be allowed to return to Australia just yet, as the return of the country’s own students stranded elsewhere is the current top priority.
Australian borders have been closed to all non-citizens and permanent residents since March to check the spread of COVID-19.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has clarified that locals will remain in front of the queue.
The number of locals allowed to enter the country is capped every week to minimise chances of virus spread. All those who return need to enter a mandatory hotel quarantine for two weeks.
But this poses a major economic deficit to the educational sector, worth A$35 billion a year to the Australian economy. The ban on foreign students is estimated to have cost the country anywhere between A$3.1 billion to A$4.8 billion this year alone, according to Catriona Jackson, chief executive of universities, Australia.
Mitchell Institute has estimated that if these restrictions remain, there could be 300,000 fewer international students in Australia by June 2021, roughly half the strength of foreign students the country was hosting before the pandemic. The institute also predicted that Sydney could see a decline of more than 70,000 students.
The trend has already started to take a toll, with several leading universities announcing dramatic job cuts to reduce costs. So far, Morrison’s government has announced an A$1 billion package to support university research in the face of this crisis.
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