How international students could return to state
A PLAN to bring in hundreds of international students from overseas is being considered by the Queensland Chief Health Officer, even as borders between states remain shut.
Queensland universities and Study Queensland have banded together to put forward the proposal to help bolster the shattered education industry economy in the state.
A draft pilot program for 300 students already enrolled, but currently overseas, to be allowed to return here under strict quarantine procedures has been put to the CHO.
Before the COVID-crisis, international education was worth $5.6 billion to the state economy and supported 27,000 jobs.
The Federal Government just approved 300 international students to enter South Australia under strict quarantine arrangements, giving the plan precedent.
Quarantine would involve transiting via Singapore, being tested for COVID before leaving, being put into a two-week hotel quarantine in Australia at the student's expense.
QUT vice-chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil said international students made a major economic contribution to economy in the regions, as well as the southeast.
"The loss of international students will have a multimillion-dollar impact on Queensland universities," she said.
Prof Sheil said the higher education sector were working closely with the State Government to put together to proposal.
"That draft proposal is with the Queensland Chief Health Officer, who has been constructively engaged with the proposal," she said.
International Education Association of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood said most Australians were unaware of the benefits international students provided, so strong communication to demonstrate this.
"They're being very careful in the proposal to look at countries where the virus has been relatively contained," he said.
"Queensland is in danger of losing early mover advantage, compared to other states."
A Palaszczuk Government spokesman confirmed a plan had been submitted by the industry to the CHO, but gave no indication on when or if a decision would be made on the proposal.
"However, the industry recognises that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and we need to be careful about the way we bring people back to Queensland in order to minimise the chances of a second wave," he said.
"We will continue to work closely with the international education industry to ensure this sector is able to restart as soon as it is safe."
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said state border restrictions, a caps flights for returning Australians, would need to be worked through before international students return.
International student Mariana Goldstein said welcoming students from overseas meant she could reunite with her family and friends who were made to pack up their belongings and rush home when the pandemic first broke out.
"As an international student most of our friends and romantic relationships become a lot more intense, they are our family here," she said.
"Thankfully there's a lot of international student communities that can give you support."
Originally published as How international students could return to state