Returning students will need to be fully vaccinated with TGA-approved jabs and will quarantine at a facility at Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, which is currently under construction.
Queensland tourism minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the return of students was “great news” for Queensland’s economy.
“We’ve taken the important step today to bring international students back to Queensland by sending our student arrival plan to the federal government. 2022 is the year of rebuilding Queensland’s recovery of the international education sector – a sector that is so important for the state, a sector that before the pandemic was our biggest export services industry, delivering $5.8 billion to the Queensland economy and 27,500 jobs,” he said.
No other state has a facility like Wellcamp, Hinchliffe noted, which he said gives Queensland a strategic advantage. “It’s a very important piece of the puzzle,” he said, and he suggested it will make quarantine costs lower than in other states.
“The reality too is that we don’t know if there is another variant of the virus around the corner”
“Why is quarantining for international students still necessary? It is still important until we have higher vaccination rates amongst Queenslanders, but even when we do, it will remain important because students won’t come into a situation where they will be able to follow those home quarantine criteria required under our health protocols.
“The reality too is that we don’t know if there is another variant of the virus around the corner.”
Hinchliffe added that students that are currently studying with Queensland’s providers is the “cohort that comes first”, and the government will be working with institutions to identify who will be part of the initial cohorts.
He said that he expects the federal government to approve the plan “as quickly as possible”.
University of Queensland vice-chancellor Deborah Terry welcomed the “important first step towards the return of international students”.
“Our international students who are studying online from offshore have shown tremendous resilience and adaptability during the pandemic and we look forward to their return,” she said in a statement.
“The phased approach will prioritise the return of currently enrolled students who need to complete practicals and placements to complete their degrees, and UQ has about 600 students in medical and allied health programs who are currently overseas.”
Regional students as well as students studying medicine and allied health will return, Hinchliffe added, “particularly those who once trained can back up our hardworking frontline workers”.
“We have been mindful in our discussion with government and health authorities about ensuring the return of our students happens in a way that keeps our communities safe and does not interfere with the return of Australian citizens and residents – and we feel this plan achieves that,” Terry continued.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson praised the resilience and perseverance of international students “who want nothing more than to return to their friends and colleagues, and to their studies in Australia”.
“Queensland university leaders have been working behind the scenes with health authorities and the state government to plan for safe international student return for a considerable period,” she said.
“Nearly half of all international students in higher education remain outside of Australia”
“Nearly half of all international students in higher education remain outside of Australia, and more and more jurisdictions are making plans to welcome students back soon.
“This pilot plan follows recent announcements from New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria, with the gradual return of their students anticipated to begin in December.”