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NSW welcomes back first students under pilot plan

The first cohort of international students has landed in Sydney under the pilot plan of the state of New South Wales in Australia.

Experts have warned that 2022 is going to be the most difficult for universities following drops in international enrolments. Photo: pexels

The next flight under the pilot program is scheduled to land in Sydney on December 24

The 250 students arriving in the state’s capital hail from over 15 nations including Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, China and Canada.

“We’ll continue to [bring in] around 250 [international] students every fortnight, until we can see more open borders and the Commonwealth granting more visas,” said Stuart Ayres, NSW’s minister for Jobs.

“[The] arrival of international students is fantastic news for the students and Australia’s higher education sector,” Independent Higher Education Australia CEO Simon Finn said.

“For almost two years, our members have been working together with universities and the NSW government towards international education recovery.

“[This week’s] arrival includes international students enrolled at Australian independent providers with IHEA members the International College of Management Sydney, Kaplan, Navitas, and RedHill Education participating in this NSW pilot project to return international students to our campuses,” Finn mentioned.

Meanwhile the vice chancellor of the University of Sydney, Mark Scott said, “If our borders are shut [the students] will go elsewhere in the northern hemisphere.”

He reiterated the importance of having international students back by emphasising that, “the funding provided by international students helps equip the research facilities that we use here at the University [of Sydney], to the benefit of everyone.”

“Rebuilding student enrolments and staffing levels will take several years to fully recover”

Some 55 of the arrivals are UNSW Sydney students, with UNSW president and vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs commenting that the institution was “pleased to have achieved the first step in this program”.

“While uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 Omicron variant remains, we remain cautiously optimistic today’s cohort will be the first of many to arrive for the start of first term next year,” he said.

Finn also spoke about the significance of international students to Australia and what the return of the first cohort under the NSW pilot meant.

“We are delighted to welcome the return of international students who contribute significantly to the cultural diversity of our community and contribute significantly to the Australian economy. International education is critical to the recovering the vibrancy of our cities and local economies across Australia,” he highlighted.

“Rebuilding student enrolments and staffing levels will take several years to fully recover, but this first arrival is an important step in rebuilding Australia’s higher education sector and demonstrating that Australia is open for business.

“We can now look forward to additional international students safely returning to campuses in Australia and their important contribution to the Australian community,” Finn said.

Peter Hurley, education policy fellow at the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University pointed out that “no university would actually be viable without international students”, and that, “next year is going to be the most difficult for universities”, as the sector gears to bounce back in 2022.

Australia enrolled 200,000 fewer international students in 2021 compared to 2019, which translates into a fall by around 26% in the country’s overall international student enrolments for the period.

The next flight under the pilot program carrying the next cohort of international students is scheduled to land in Sydney on December 24.

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