*UPDATE: As reported on 9 July, the pilot program to bring international students at ANU and The University of Canberra to the ACT has postponed, due to new cases of COVID-19 found in the territory.
You may have seen news announcing the possibility of international students returning to specific cities in Australia as soon as next month through ‘pilot programs’. The Australian National University and the University of Canberra in the nation’s capital have said they will welcome 350 international students through this program in July, with a similar program in the works for 800 students looking to come to South Australia.
For international students keen to commence their studies in Australia, this is good news. But, at the moment, it does not mean that Australia’s borders are fully open, nor does it officially set a timeline for when that might happen. Let’s run through some of the details surrounding these pilot programs.
Which students will be part of the pilot program?
At present, it is reported that the pilot program in Canberra will target students who were already set to return to their studies before Australia’s borders closed down.
Based on this information, it is unlikely that new students (in other words, those commencing their studies in July 2020) will be part of the initial 350 students. Instead, it will focus on students who are already part-way through their studies, allowing them to continue their courses.
What will the program entail?
As reported by Australian news outlets, it is likely that the flights bringing international students to Australia will leave from an Asia-Pacific hub, probably Singapore. Upon arrival in Australia, students will have to be placed in mandatory 14-day quarantine in a hotel, a regulation that has been in place since the pandemic reached Australia.
Regarding the Canberra program, students will then be housed on campus to continue their studies in time for the second semester in August.
What should students expect in Australia?
Australia, much like the rest of the world, has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, there are certain restrictions in place, which are different in each state and territory, depending on the area’s needs. For example, as of 21 June 2020, Victoria has experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases, so some restrictions, like a smaller limit on the amount of guests you can have in your house, have been reinstated. So, students arriving in Australia should prepare for certain regulations to change as the country tackles the pandemic.
However, it’s important to note that these pilot programs would not be in place if they were thought to be unsafe. The ACT and South Australia have had no active cases of COVID-19 for some time now, and the quarantine regulations on new arrivals in these areas will ensure you keep yourself, and the general public, safe and healthy. COVID-19 testing is also widespread and accessible throughout Australia, so if you feel unwell, you can quickly rule out the threat of COVID-19 following a test.
Does this mean Australia’s borders are opening soon?
Unfortunately, we don’t know. The Australian borders are still closed at present and are likely to remain that way for a while longer. We’ve put together some information on when international students may be able to return to Australia here.
For up-to-date news on when you can come to Australia, maintain communication with your education provider in Australia and keep an eye out for official breaking news that will announce when more international flights are reinstated, and what border measures are in place. The Australian Government website and SmartTraveller are two valuable resources you can use.