Australia’s Education Minister Alan Tudge has revealed that the return of international students to the country is dependent on the availability of COVID-19 vaccines.
Tudge said that the government does not have a timeline for allowing large numbers of students into Australia but that effective vaccines would significantly accelerate the process.
“Ordinarily, we have about 185,000 students who would cross the borders and come into Australia to start at the beginning of the academic year, and about the same number again in the middle of the year,” Tudge told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio on Friday.
“Now, when we can get back to those types of numbers, I don’t know yet.”
“We’re really taking it week by week and month by month. Obviously, a big factor in all of this is the vaccine and how effective that will be. And should that vaccine be effective, then it really does make a big difference and we may be able to take numbers in again.”
The government in 2020 asked every state and territory to submit plans for how they would accommodate students into their hotel quarantine programs for international arrivals.
Tudge said that the government was open to “all options” for quarantine for international students but that no state or territory has submitted their proposals.
“The state governments are working through those things, along with the higher education providers, but we’re still not at that stage yet where we’re in the position to be able to have significant quarantining arrangements for those international students,” he said.
“Those proposals need to be above and beyond what their existing quarantining arrangements are, which are available for Australians who are returning.”