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Australia: agents react to December 1 opening

Australia’s announcement that it will permit fully vaccinated students to arrive in the country without needing to apply for a travel exemption from December 1 has been hailed as a “sigh of relief”, by international education agents.

Larger intakes of international students may only start arriving in July 2022, agents suggested. Photo: pexels

Chartered flights between India and Australia may be required, others emphasised

It will help to “put Australia back on the map for international students”, the stakeholders suggest, with president of AAERI and MD of Global Reach, Ravi Lochan Singh, saying the announcement is the “best news in last two years”.

However, the lack of commercial flight availability is expected to limit the return of large cohorts of students and clear communication for students will be key, especially around varying quarantine requirements, agents say. Additionally, they anticipate an increase in student visa loads.

“Students who have enrolled, studying online, were particularly awaiting for the borders to open”

“This announcement marks a significant positive step for students who have patiently held onto their study abroad dreams,” Andrew Barkla, chief executive officer at IDP, said.

“Australia now needs to ensure that those students are provided appropriate and timely support in order to repay their patience and show them the value of an Australian education,” he added.

AECC Global said the announcement is “going to have a substantial effect in helping students return to their studies in Australia” and help to “put Australia back on the map for international students”.

“International students are renewing their passports and are getting ready to travel to Australia again,” chief commercial officer Jake Foster said in a statement to The PIE.

Director of Edwise Sushil Sukhwani described the news as “very exciting”.

“Students who have enrolled, studying online, were particularly awaiting for the borders to open. They are overjoyed and have been contacting our offices to find out more information about the finer details about how they can travel and when they can travel,” he explained.

Counsellors and students are both awaiting detailed information about the specifics for each city and institution, as well as availability of flights “so that they can make their travel plans”, Sukhwani said.

AECC agreed that finding flights is currently a “real challenge” for student visa holders as a result of substantially fewer commercial flights than pre-pandemic.

Chartered flights between India and Australia may be required, others emphasised.

In Brazil, BELTA president and director of TravelMate Alexandre Argenta said the news “brings a lot of optimism” to the market.

“However students and agents must take every step at a time to re-schedule their trips to Australia because specially visa processing times are still very uncertain. At this time we will believe that life will get back to normal for Australian departure starting in the second semester of 2022,” he told The PIE.

Following the announcement, AAERI has set up a ‘Project Rebuild Coordination Committee’ including education agents and in-country Australian education provider office representatives, with an action plan being framed.

“Austrade has already commenced work around a series of agent engagements on the ground and AAERI is going to facilitate it. There is already a backlog and pent up demand from students for Australia,” he told The PIE.

“Anticipating increase in student visa lodgements and to ensure that the visa applications are complete, reducing the risk of refusals, AAERI is going to organise a briefing session with Home Affairs in mid December and will open it to all associated with the sub-continent student market,” he added.

“Australian authorities were a bit late to relax the rules as compared to other popular destination countries such as the UK, Canada & US,” Tejas Labhshetwar, founder and CEO of Gyanberry highlighted.

“Nevertheless, I think it is great news and finally a sigh of relief for thousands of international students who were holding a valid Australian study visa but were sitting in frustration at home. Finally, they can look forward to enjoying campus life and attending in person classes!

“More needs to be done from the respective states and the universities in clearly communicating the eligibility criteria”

“However, more needs to be done from the respective states and the universities in clearly communicating the eligibility criteria, arrival plans and the steps students have to take to get the permit to enter Australia and board the flight without any hassles. As of now four out of the six states have communicated their roadmap and plans.”

AECC Global’s Foster agreed that the state border situation “is very confusing for Australians and international students”.

“Students have been told they can only travel into certain Australian states VIC, NSW and the ACT so those seeking to return to states with lower vaccination rates and state border restrictions including QLD, WA or SA will have difficulties and will likely have to quarantine at great expense,” he said.

“It is our expectation that by the time of the first intake in 2022, all states will have uniform policy and like NSW, Victoria and ACT, they will also waive the quarantine requirements for the returning international students who are vaccinated,” AAERI’s Ravi Lochan Singh added.

A spokesperson at TC Global added that the study abroad discovery and applications platform is “eagerly awaiting” quarantine-free policies to continue to expand across Australia, as vaccination numbers increase.

Additionally, it will be a challenge for the Australian Border Force to build processes to recognise vaccine certificates from some countries, Foster warned.

“[In] countries like the Philippines, certificates even for Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccines are in some cases just a single piece of paper that differs from region to region,” he said.

Bounce back

Like which reported a 250% increase in student demand in the hours following the announcement on November 22, Edwise is planning to achieve more admissions for Feb 2022 start programs, Sukhwani added.

“We have been actively sharing the news along with prospective students via our e-mail and social media campaigns. As a result of this we have seen increased and walk-ins and telephone enquiries from prospective students wanting to Study in Australia at our offices across India,” he told The PIE.

In Turkey, Academix has also already started receive inquiries and applications for Australian language school and universities, managing director Engin Cosar highlighted.

“Australia became one of the first countries which closed borders and one of the last countries to open the borders. To be honest, it was a real surprise for us because we were not expecting Australia to open the borders in 2021. I think it’s a great news for the students and agencies, because there were many students who are looking forward to hear this news.”

“We’ve seen substantial inbound student interest in Australia in the last day or so as a result of the government announcement,” Foster at AECC added.

“What we’re already seeing and expect to continue, is an increase in interest for education in Australia, with February and July 2022 looking more promising,” TC Global stated.

“Students have even already begun booking their flights for January and February”

“Students have even already begun booking their flights for January and February to [VIC, NSW and the ACT]! We expect 2022 to be a strong recovery and rebound for international education in Australia.”

However, AECC warned that there is “some serious global competition” now for international students with countries like Canada and the UK “rolling out the red carpet for international students”, with IDP saying Australia is playing catch-up.

IDP also called on the government to share its long-term strategy soon to “build confidence in a diverse recruitment opportunity for Australian institutions, while also addressing the nation’s urgent skills shortage”.

“This is critical to ensure Australia can remain an attractive study destination for future generations to come,” Barkla said.

Larger intakes of students may only start arriving in July 2022, AECC noted.

“Students planning to commence their studies at the start of 2022 in Australia only have a few weeks now to finalise their enrolments,” Foster said.

“March is traditionally one of the largest university intakes for new international students, given the late timing of the government’s announcement we believe that we won’t see significant new intakes of international students in Australia until July 2022.”

Ravi Lochan Singh went one step further, suggesting that he “believes that by middle of 2022, the student numbers from the sub-continent will return to the pre pandemic levels”.

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