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Australia: sector calls for international student vaccination passports

International students should be allowed to enter Australia as part of a ‘vaccination passport’ arrangement, according to stakeholders in the country’s education sector. 

Stakeholders are calling for vaccination passports for int'l students trying to enter Australia. Photo: Pexels

"International students contribute $40 billion to gross domestic product and support 250,000 jobs"

Since Australia closed its border in 2020 due to the pandemic, international students have been unable to travel to the country. The federal education minister Alan Tudge recently said that the country won’t see a return of international students en masse until 2022. 

“All of us hope that the issues with the vaccination program won’t delay the return of overseas students”

Now, delays to Australia’s vaccination rollout have caused concern that international students will be further hindered from entering the country. Stakeholders are warning that international students have lost patience and will be trying to change their study destination. 

“There was a change in focus when the new education minister Alan Tudge came into the portfolio – the talk shifted from quarantine pathways to opening to students once vaccinations were rolled out across Australia (now delayed…) and checking if students had the ‘correct’ vaccines offshore before coming,” Robert Parsonson, executive officer of ISEAA, told The PIE News.

“Now that Australia has bungled the vaccine rollout pressure is mounting to find solutions to start bringing back students – the states New South Wales, SA and now Victoria have increased efforts to make this happen,” he said. 

CEO of IEAA Phil Honeywood told The PIE that given the delays in Australia’s vaccination rollout, the sector is lobbying the federal government to establish a ‘vaccination passport’ arrangement.

“This would permit international students to enter Australia if they can provide proof of having been vaccinated prior to boarding their flight. 

“Obviously, the government is concerned to ensure that the vaccine type meets their health approval protocols and that there is some independent verification of the student having actually been vaccinated,” Honeywood added. 

He explained that it is anticipated that an already vaccinated student would still be required to undertake 14 days quarantine on arrival in Australia.

“Any further delay to reopening Australia’s borders past 2021 will have consequences that will stretch well into the future”

“All of us hope that the issues with the vaccination program won’t delay the return of overseas students, but unfortunately there may be long-term implications for universities, students and the Australian economy,” Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson told The PIE. 

“Any further delay to reopening Australia’s borders past 2021 will have consequences that will stretch well into the future, with losses for universities and other providers – as well as national prosperity – over multiple years.”

“We look forward to the safe return of our international students who bring great cultural and economic wealth with them, contributing $40 billion to gross domestic product and supporting 250,000 jobs.”

Jackson called for a national plan to pull together the safe return efforts of universities, state and territory governments with the Commonwealth.

There is mounting concern about how border closures are affecting Australian institutions that rely on international students. 

Honeywood explained the impact of students not being able to return to Australia was nuanced and that universities and other education providers have been affected in different ways. 

“On the one hand, our top ranked public universities have been pleased to see a strong appetite from students in some countries to continue their studies offshore online.”

“There is a lot of anger especially from sub-continent students“There is a lot of anger especially from sub-continent students”

However, Honeywood added that a number of other universities have discovered that some of their international students, who are already onshore in Australia, are transferring their enrolments into less expensive courses at private education providers.

“Obviously, if we have the commencement of a third academic year in 2022 with our borders still closed then many students who have been studying offshore online might become more inclined to transfer their studies to countries that are willing to provide them with face to face teaching options,” he said. 

Parsonson told The PIE that universities and TAFE are publicly funded, and so while they will cut back further jobs and capital works, they are unlikely to go out of business. 

He argued that private VET and English colleges are likely to be the collateral damage of the continued border closures. He also noted that tourism and many other businesses that rely on international students are closing and that students themselves are increasingly frustrated. 

“There is a lot of anger especially from sub-continent students – Australia has granted visas since July last year and is not fulfilling any obligations to even try to get some students back or into Australia. Patience has run out and it is likely that students will change the destination if possible,” he said. 

“The government reviews approved plans to ensure that the Protocols and Preconditions have been met”

A Department of Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson told The PIE that international students are an important part of the Australian community, and will be welcomed back to Australia, when conditions allow.

The spokesperson said that to guide the state and territory planning process, the Australian government has developed the Protocols and Preconditions for International Student Arrivals. These protocols are available on the DESE website

In November 2020, all states and territories were invited to submit Student Arrivals Plans for the broader return of international students. All jurisdictions are working on student arrival plans, but no final plans have been shared with the Commonwealth.

“Any plans for international student arrivals must be approved by the state or territory’s first minister and chief health officer, who are best placed to understand the capacity of their health and quarantine systems to meet necessary standards,” the spokesperson said. 

“The government reviews approved plans to ensure that the Protocols and Preconditions have been met and to ensure relevant Commonwealth agencies can support states and territories to implement their plans.” 

They added that any future moves to bring international students into Australia must be done safely and without impacting Australians who want to return home.

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20 Responses to Australia: sector calls for international student vaccination passports

  1. I m a international student and i learn online but there no meaning to learn online.because i m spending good fees to university and why i m studying online all countries are open their borders then why Australia not?if the country do not resume the flights i think i need to move my country Australia to other.because there is attending live session and study better then online. Please reopen the flights for students because i dont understand better anything in online session.

  2. The reason Australia has its borders closed is to reduce deaths. Other countries have accepted the health (and economic) damage. We can’t understand this.

    Unfortunately, January/February 2022 is the best guess for international students arriving in Australia. There is nothing good about this for you, but it is saving people’s lives.

  3. Please sir….here was a lots of pain from international students because of closing the borders for Australia. consider this problem and open the borders of Australia this may lead to mentally disorder diseases to the international students if borders were closed.

  4. Situation is worse for international dental students who cannot progresssince preclinical has to be held onsite so students already had to defer 1 year
    Already vaccinated from Canada still not allowed to enter

  5. I’m a father from Sri Lanka expected to send my child for higher education in Australia.

    Good Bye Australia, I have selected UK for my child’s education to continue.

    Advising all other parents to select countries where boarders are open to continue children’s education without wasting your child’s valuable time by looking at Australia.

    Australian on line education is a complete bullshit

  6. Students who are vaccinated should be allowed to come to Australia and be quarantined for 14 days. It’s a big struggle for us international students, neither our fees being reduced nor we are even getting considered to come back.

  7. It’s understandable that you don’t want to risk your country, but at least show some empathy to international students by giving us some benefits. I have been paying $100 every month at a storage unit since a year now, and I’m paying the same fees of online classes as on campus class.

  8. Please reopen the borders in australia. We international students offshore are really frustrated and losing our patience waiting for the borders to open. It’s been 1year already that the borders are still closed. I’m so depressed waiting for the borders to open plus the fact that my course doesn’t have an online class. I have deferred my course four times and hoping that it will be the last. 😢😢😢

  9. Please reopen the borders in Australia. We international students offshore are really frustrated and losing our patience waiting for the borders to open. It’s been 1year already that the borders are still closed.

  10. I just got enrolled earlier this year and seriously I’m finding it difficult with these online classes/lecture/assessments coupled with the time difference between my country Nig and Australia. I paid huge amount of money for all that and yet border is closed, kindly reopen pls to enable me study well, am really struggling online, we can come in n perform COVID-19 test in Australia and prolly quarantine also if that be the case please something has to be done very fast.

  11. Considering australian education seriously. I think australia should ramp up the vaccination for residents already in there. And start letting in students with all prerequisites done. It is definitely frustrating to pay huge money to be just virtually present. Please consider the long term impact of closing borders this way.
    September- october 2021 this year would be a reasonable time to let us travel back. Hoping for a positive decision soon.

  12. I am an international student of Australia having my student visa as qell. Came out to my home country for my mother’s funural last year. Yet unavle to return to Australia. I have to complete my studies. We too have life goals. And Australia is just fading out our ambitions and goals. Its just another 1 years for me to finish. Please open the borders. At least with quarantines

  13. Am Franklyn from Nigeria. I gained admission into Australia University in 2020 paid my tuition fee and I have deferred my admission 3 times, I am losing patience if by August 20201 the boarder is still closed, I will have no doubt to request for a refund of my fee and look for a western country that has its borders open.. Australia should quickly act before August because their are a pool of international student who will back out from the quest of waiting.. Covid19 has vaccines in almost all countries what Australia needs to do is ask for your covid test results. And invite the student for a check up..

  14. Not sure why fully vaccinated foreign students are not being let in at present, perhaps with a quarantine period to be even more sure.

    However, time is almost up. iIf U of Sydney does not allow foreign students in starting in aug 2021, my daughter can’t wait any longer. We’ will have to take our refund elsewhere.

    Too bad bc she was really looking forward to her grad program in your beautiful country. ,

  15. My child has come back after the PM asked international students to go home n now she is seeing nutritionist because she has developed high stress level doing online studies the nutritionist said she is not alone many suffered some even need to see pychiactrist

  16. Australia gov should at least have empathy to the final year students who have spent so much money waiting only one semester or two to graduate

  17. The mentioned about ” Vaccinated International Students “, I wonder do accept all the vaccines for COVID19 as we have many available now or do they have any preferences in this also when it comes to effectivilty of the vaccines ???

  18. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, also told reporters on Monday morning that linking the vaccination passport to the return of international students was “somewhat premature”.

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