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“Australia needs to know that students won’t wait forever” say international students

If all goes well, a batch of international students will arrive back in Australia at the end of November on a charter flight from Singapore. Tickets on this exclusive flight are believed to be setting Charles Darwin University students back AUD$2,500 for one of 70 available seats.

For student Afiq Ramizi, the lack of job opportunities makes Australia less attractive. Photo: Afiq Ramizi

Australia universities have provided $110 million to students in need to date

But for the majority of international students, the waiting game continues – and the government’s attitude towards international students during the pandemic is damaging Australia’s reputation as a study destination among some student communities.

“I applied for more than 10 requests for an exemption to return to get mandatory in-person training but was denied despite having letters of support from my university,” one international student who wished to remain anonymous told The PIE News.

Australia initially closed its border in March to all but Australian citizens, permanent residents and several other categories not including students. Certain classes of students are able to apply to individual states and territories for exemptions.

“I am really worried that if borders don’t open by January 2021, I will have no choice but to withdraw from my program which is not only educationally devastating but also emotionally devastating as I worked so hard to get into this program,” she continued.

“The Australian government is not doing enough at all. We have completely been left behind and it’s so disappointing to see a country I love doing this.”

“I applied for more than 10 requests for an exemption to return to get mandatory in-person training but was denied”

Minister for education Dan Tehan has said that the priority for the federal government remains getting all Australians home who want to come home by Christmas.

“And then we also want to see a focus on international students in the lead up to the commencement of semester one next year,” he added.

The restrictions have not only interrupted studies, but separated students from their families. Iffat Lamia, whose husband is an international student, waited in Bangladesh for 11 months to obtain student dependent visas for herself and her two-year-old daughter.

“But now we can’t go because of this travel ban,” she explained.

“My husband misses our daughter every single moment. He can’t come to us to spend his holidays. She Facetimes her daddy many times a day. She can’t talk properly but she misses her dad and cries for him.”

Lamia told The PIE that in their eight years of marriage, she and husband had never spent more than one week apart.

“Whereas now we have no idea when we are going to meet with each other again,” she said.

“Other countries have started to allow students and student dependants but Australia doesn’t give any information, no condolences, nothing at all.”

The pandemic has further heightened frustrations international students already have with government policy towards them.

“Most of the time we get emails from our instructors highlighting that all these internships are just for national students, not for international students, or that webinars are just for national students, not international students,” explained Abdullah Aljunaibi, who is studying electrical engineering at Griffith University.

“All these internships are just for national students”

“I have never seen an email that stated this webinar or this internship is just for international students. Universities are not providing the best experience, despite the high fees students face.”

Other students who spoke to The PIE lamented that in places like New South Wales and Victoria, international students aren’t eligible for the same travel concessions as domestic counterparts, despite years of campaigning to put them on equal footing.

In fact, the only aspect of the Australian international education industry students were quick to praise were university staff, who they say have gone “above and beyond” to support them despite difficult circumstances.

I wasn’t expecting my university to be able to pull this off,” admitted Patrick Aung Khant Min at the University of New South Wales.

“But we have weekly sessions to make sure we study the lecture materials, we use Microsoft teams and Zoom for the lectures and tutorial classes,” he added, although he said that waking up at three or four in the morning for lectures due to four and a half hour time difference between Sydney and his native Myanmar wasn’t easy.

Of course, some courses do translate into digital better than others. For University of Melbourne data science student Yiran Wang, the switch to online learning wasn’t a huge problem, but she added that friends studying subjects like biology and chemistry have been more affected by the disruptions.

“They used to be able to have a two hour hands-on workshop, but right now it has been cut down to a 20-minute video,” she said.

According to Catriona Jackson, chief executive at Universities Australia, every Australian university has set up a hardship support fund, with $110 million having been provided to students in need to date.

“Australian universities are continuing to be as flexible and accommodating as they can to the needs of international students,” she added.

“[They] are doing all they can to stay as connected as possible with all their students.”

However even universities’ and other international students supporters’ best efforts may not be enough to stem the tide of growing dissatisfaction among some.

“The cost of living is very expensive. We invest so much in our education because we are hoping to have a future career here,” says Afiq Ramizi, a Malaysian commerce student at the University of New South Wales.

“But with the backdrop of Covid-19 and people losing jobs, it’s pretty hard to get a job right now. I got retrenched earlier in June,” he continued.

“I don’t think it’s the best time to come to Australia”

“Because of that, I don’t think it’s the best time to come to Australia.”

While some students are hopeful things will improve next year, there remains no indication of when the border will reopen.

The student who had applied for 10 exemptions to the travel ban further said she would no longer recommend Australia as a place to study right now.

“I’d recommend looking at countries who have borders open for students and who provided support for students,” she said.

“Australia needs to know that students won’t wait forever, we value our careers and education too much. We will go elsewhere.”

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35 Responses to “Australia needs to know that students won’t wait forever” say international students

  1. I think the student is right. If students need to work, Australia (and every other developed country) will not be great. Restaurants, shops and pubs are all open as usual here (unlike the UK and parts of the USA), but there will be less demand for hotels and tourism.

    However, like NZ, we have almost no cases of COVID in the community. I think for 2021, that might be more important for the parents of students from most countries.

  2. Completely agreed. I am also in the same situation. Already spent more than AUD 10,000 in my program. Deferred it once & now seeing no scope of borders to be open. It took me around one year to reach & worked so hard for it.
    Its a humble request to the government of Australia specially ACT, to allow the international students in with full precautions. I am a future student of Australian National University, in Masters of Biotechnology. A program that completely needs practical work & hands on.
    Hope this message will reach to you & will come on it soon.

  3. The Australian government should open the border’s for international students because in all over the world the students are traveling from one country to an other country such as UK or Canada

  4. Such a horrible attitude of Oz government towards International students who already pay 3 times the fee through which domestic students get a subsidy.

    Govt. is still shamelessly distributing student visas but not letting international students in. What’s the point of distributing suspended student visas? It is a scam by the government itself!

    I have heard that students are exploring ways to transfer credits of first semester to a UK or Canadian university. Atleast those governments value International students.

  5. The Australian government should open the border’s for international students because in all over the world the students are going to an other countries for their further study such as UK and Canada also opened their border’s

  6. It’s sad to see how students have been left stranded abroad. This makes me wonder either I should go to Australia or not since they have approved my visa last week after months of waiting.

  7. I am wondering to meet my wife since last 1.5 years.If Indian Cricketers allow to travel to Australia without any exemptions than why people those who are seperated with their families are waiting to see each other. Afterall, all we are humans we all have feelings. Why Australia is not working in huminity and compassionate. Really disappointing behaviour by Morrison Government.

  8. I am not a student. Due to infection rates on the increase from other countries Australia needs to be vigilant. To me if student is able to isolate in medi hotel for 14 days at own cost and adhere to the quarantine requirements I see no problem.
    Students need to calm I believe they will let them in eventually this virus is highly contiguous sticky awful bug each country has a responsability to their citizens first sames as every country out there. Everyone just needs to be calm and patient it will happen.

    • I completely understand your concern and I myself would never want to risk the health of Australians. (About myself: I have an offer for a PhD placement in Australia. I have very good grades from a great university in the UK. What I’m trying to say is that I could get a PhD at lots of places but the project in Australia interested me. Now I’ve been waiting for months and there is no end in sight. I can’t get a proper job in the meantime since I can’t say how long I could stay on. I’d be ok to spend my hard earned money to get a covid test before the flight and pay for the hotel quarantine and test when I get to Australia. But I have now gotten to a point where I am looking elsewhere. Because there is no timeline and I am stuck here waiting and checking the news daily. This emotionally and financially draining.

  9. Yes, Australian government should listen to the Student’s cries of concern. Border should be opened now. Even UK and Canada has allowed international travel.

  10. The government knows what’s best for it’s people and they have taken actions accordingly. I myself am an immigrant on a temporary visa who has received no benefits whatsoever and also lost my job for a short period at the peak of the pandemic. I’ve not seen my family for close to 4 years. But I don’t complain. The government did not ask me to move to Australia to pursue my higher education. The government did not promise any benefits and in fact clearly advise international students to carry enough funds to meet the minimum cost of living expenses. The government did not guarantee a job for me. These are and were my choices!
    Also, for a matter of fact, the state governments have given a lot of support to international students although they are not obligated to. I’m sure the governments in none of the countries we immigrants come from would provide that kind of support. Local communities have also done a lot to provide support. As a non citizen, It would be not be right to expect the same benefits a citizen is entitled to.
    People need to be practical. If other countries have opened their borders to international students, then who is stopping you for migrating there?
    Yes, cricketers from India were allowed. Australia is a sporting nation and it needs to put itself back on track. May be the sporting events matter more to them than international students do.
    For a matter of fact, there are still many Australian citizens who are unable to get into their homeland. If you were the government, who would you prioritise? Your citizens or an immigrant/ student/ dependant on a temporary visa?
    People need to stop playing the ’emotional/ humility / compassionate’ card. Leave those for people in countries like Yemen/Syria who suffer for no fault of theirs.
    Uncertainties are a part of life. All we can do is be prepared.

    • Thank you for your insights. I disagree with every statement you made. First of all, you argued that the government knows what’s best for its citizens. Firstly I would like to suggest that the opposite is true, and perhaps you can find so many different examples in history and academia that support my claim. This statement you made is also fallacious, as the government is not even letting in its own citizens. If you think that international students want preferential treatment and priority over Australian citizens, you’re completely wrong. This pandemic has simply shown that the federal government is unable to communicate with state governments.
      Secondly, you argue that a lot of support has been given to international students. I’d like you to support your claim with proof instead of flailing that statement about, especially given the many dissatisfied opinions online.
      Thirdly, you boldly stated that if other places have opened their borders, then we should go elsewhere. That statement was very hurtful and dishonest. The reason why we’re not leaving is that we’ve already invested a lot of money in Australia, and we want our voices to be heard. Would you like to lose $k10, and change your plans all of a sudden? Good for you for being this rich, friend.
      Your cricket statement doesn’t even deserve a reply.
      I agree with the citizens statement. I would argue that the government isn’t really prioritising at all. In fact, they’re only making things worse, with a bigger number of travel exemptions outside of Australia for short trips than exemptions in.
      Finally, your statement about leaving compassion out the door makes me quite angry and I sincerely hope you’ll never find yourself in the same situation as some of us. Comparing people’s suffering to one another is terrible. It’s not a competition.

      Shame on you

  11. Well boo hoo to international students. Its a rrisk they all take choosing to study overseas. And frankly, any jobs opening up should be the preserve of Australian citizens and those with permanent residence vusa who can prove they have actually lived here continuously for at least two years prior to COVID. So unless these whining international students can afford to pay for flights (and do not take the place of returning citizens), can pay for quarantine and can fully support themselves financially without a job, tbey should stay home. Australia is not responsible for them any more than their country is responsible for ‘stuck’ Australians.

    • @kss Firstly, it is not a risk to study abroad. It is education not war. I hope you dont think students should fear coming to Australia, should they?

      Secondly, are you seriously insecure about uber eats riders? I wont even call that a job.

      Thirdly, each student flying in will anyway be paying for medical insurance, flight, quarantine, and then 3X tuition fees.

      AND, he will also pay income tax exactly at same rate as you pay. But alas! He will not get any medical or govt benefits. He may get a “boo hoo” from you though. 😀

      Next time you see a student working, do remember that your unemployment allowance might be having a teeny-weeny contribution from his income tax too. Cheers!

    • I completely understand your points. And I myself as an international student would feel horrible if I’d take a seat of an Australian trying to get back to their families. But I’d like to say something to one of your points. I’d be willing and able to pay for my flights, covid test, quarantine etc. (and completely understand that this is necessary. I don’t want to bring covid into the country that would be horrible!). I also don’t expect to get a job or benefits. There is still no plan on when I can come into the country. Yes, being an international student is a risk but as a PhD I was hoping to add something to the Australian scientific community. I have an excellent background and could have gone to other universities but I was hoping to bring this knowledge to Australia to strengthen your scientific excellence. And I didn’t mind waiting for a while. But I don’t know how much longer I’m willing to do this without there being a plan and a timeframe I can prepare for. So to conclude I support Australia trying to be as safe as possible and I support Australians being prioritised. But Australia also needs to know that they will loose excellence in the scientific community if they don’t start to give a timeframe that won’t be changed every two weeks (because even if the date would be next September I could get a job in my field in the meantime which I cannot with the current uncertainty).

  12. Agreed, international student fee is high, quality of study is low and no opportunities.Some times I feel like, is it a scam?

    My hope and faith is gone. Not even human is respected. We are not even considered as human nor student. Are we slave ?

    My per subject fee is $ 4500 +.i study 4 subjects per month. And quality of study is poor. Do you think i am millioner. We came here to get better life not to staisfy peoples luxiory life. We came here becauee we want to make difference in our life and hoping to give world something. Are we dogs?

    Is this education system or business.

    I wonder.

    • It’s a business, yes, they don’t care about you. They see you as a debt slave.

      It’s all part of the population ponzi scheme to benefit a few industries, namely construction, real estate and banking. If you can lock people into being debt slaves for 40 years, it’s a win win for these industries.

      The University VCs figured this out as well and that’s why they charge so much for dodgy courses and pay themselves so much money.

      All Australia wants is debt slaves to take on more debt, because we cannot do anything else anymore.

      This whole thing will blow up eventually, because Morrison and Albo can only kick the can down the road for so long. By then they will both have cushy corporate gigs – not because they have any talent whatsoever, but because of the information they can provide. Look at Christopher Pyne and his job at EY. Do you think they hired him for his talent?

      Treat every politician, bureaucrat and vested interest as a corrupt liar. Question everything they say and do your own research.

  13. I also agree. The tuition fee is definitely not a small amount of money as an international student who had to come back to my country. However, we are not getting the exact decent experience due to lack of information that we are getting. I always search up for the articles to see better news and check the situations around Australia But I always can not predict when am I going to be able to go back and enjoy studying at campus. I really wish I can go back to Sydney and see my friends again soon:/

  14. International students bring extreme amounts of money to Australia. Through visa application, tuition, rent, daily expenses, travel, you name it. When uni is over, many of them stay here, so they buy units or houses. Tuition fees for residents is cross financed from the higher fees charged to international students. Unis operate based on an expected number of students, including international ones. Courses are offered, teachers are employed based on the expected numbers if students.
    The construction industry is also dependent on increasing population.
    All this collapses without international students.
    Also, the world is in a global race for talent. We don’t want talent to find better places to go than Australia.
    Just my 2 cents.

    • It’s already collapsing at my uni, usually they would have a normal summer semester offering every subject as they do during normal semesters. But this November they changed the summer semester drastically, offering only 1 subject for every year and fast tracking it. So instead of doing the semester in the usual 12 weeks, they are doing it in 6 weeks. Trust me man, universities will start mass firing and readjusting their budgets big time in 2021 and going forward. Plus with so many international students disappointed in Australian ways and it’s systems overall they won’t be coming back in the usual numbers by a long shoot. Also you need to account it’s a huge financial crisis all over the world and many people simply won’t have money to study in australia and will either study in their country or at a cheaper European country that had bang in or better institutions than Australia. When university is a business this is only to be expected, and in my opinion as a somewhat disappointed international student it’s a good thing that the bubble is bursting. A respected country should of never allowed for things to get out of hand and for education to become a pipeline like experience. I would say Australian education and teachers experience is on pair to those in third world. Take this feedback as you wish, but you guys should focus on manufacturing and actually creating something rather than on services this much. If not for natural wealth (mining), Australia would be in a very different position and a much poorer country. But thats ok, you already have emissions laws that match third world countries.

  15. So beyond frustrating! A country like Australia doesn’t have the resources to bring back its stranded citizens? It’s not even a huge number! They’ve asked us all to apply for visa regardless, I’m still waiting for mine after almost 4 months now. Feels like I made the biggest mistake of my life by choosing Australia over other countries.

  16. I completed my bachelor of information technology degree last year and have been looking for a job since then. 99% jobs are for local students only. I was interviewed for a job and the first question the interviewer asked me was that
    if I was a permanent resident of Australia. My answer was negative and he didn’t ask any further questions. He said this position is for locals only.

    It doesn’t matter how qualified you are for the job you will not get the job unless you are Australian citizen or permanent resident.

    Even entry level graduate role and internship are not available for international student.

    We pay a lot of money for our education but they don’t even give us travel concession.

    This is all our fault, why did we come? Unfortunately these discriminatory treatments were not mentioned in any of the university website or in any other advertisements. If I knew I would have never wasted my parent’s money coming to Australia. Before coming to Australia, all I heard is that Australia is the 3rd most popular destination for education, there are lots of opportunities, lots of support for international students. But, the reality is totally opposite.

    I spent 90k for my 3 years degree. It’s been 1 year since I completed my degree and haven’t got any job opportunity because of the discriminatory treatments.

  17. My daughter is year 9 student, only 14 years old girl, she always feels herself is abandoned and depressed, lack of energy for study and others activities or communication with others since she trapped in her country and can’t go back to her school and friends. Have the Morrison government ever concern their mental health and the reality of international students facing with since the government blocked the broader and never have clear response to students ?

  18. International education is a scam. It is not an export – they work here to pay for the course and I bet actually remit money back home (making it actually an import … of labour). They are here for the permanent residency options.

    If it is an “export” then of course they should pay full freight for their public transport – they add congestion and the whole system operates at a loss funded by taxpayers.

  19. Students from Singapore are integral to our economy and serve no threat, there are currently zero community cases in Singapore. We know because we are here, we know because we lived through a slick process early. Singapore students plus Australians trying to return home from Singapore should be quarantining at home (of course with correct tracing and check protocols) and free the spaces for hotel quarantine to those stranded in Europe and the USA for example.

  20. I’m stunned that any international student thinks Australian taxpayers should support them. Right now, tens of thousands of taxpaying Australians are stuck overseas – and incurring huge day-to-day expenses – and over one million Australians are suddenly unemployed and almost 50% of previously-working Australians are now on some for form of handout. It may come as a surprise to you, but millions of taxpaying Australians are now rapidly sliding into real poverty. I think we know how much gov assistance Australians would get if they were marooned in the countries from which most international students derive. Nothing! Besides, many universities and state governments are providing real assistance to many foreign students, yet they have no legal obligation to do so, and the work rights for those on students visas – along with their partners – are some of the most generous in the world. The terms of your visa are made very clear to you before you opt to come to Australia. By the way, please refrain from using the ‘mental health’, depression’ and ‘stress’ tropes; they’re tiresome and don’t cut any ice with anyone.

  21. , The Australian government should open the border’s for international students because in all over the world the students are going to other countries for their further studies such as UK and Canada also opened their border’s

  22. Please open the border for international students! Just do whatever you have to do with the quarantine, covid check etc. Just bring back international students back!

  23. Problem is not only about COVID cases, which acc to me are not going anywhere even with travel restrictions and what not, but So many students landing in Australia will take up Part time jobs, which are not there currently. This is more of a run away from situation than face the problem attitute of this govt. COVID is a part of life now and govts need to realize to live with it. 8 months and if you still do not have policies to live with it, just shows the intelligence of the govt.

  24. My son is studying in Sydney Australia, even for very very important work we can’t call him to India, because of the uncertainty of returning back to Australia for remaining course.
    Australia should allow international student to return to Australia even with rules like 14 days quarantine and other precautionary measures to prevent the spread of corona virus.
    I urge Australian govt to think and do some for many international students in early 2021.

  25. Australia government should open borders for international students as soon as possible with precautions of cause even if its quarantine cost . It’s sad and frustrating.

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