International students given path back to Australia
Flying international students into Australia on charter flights to boost the struggling university sector will be considered under stage three of easing coronavirus restrictions.
Universities may be allowed to charter flights to bring in overseas students - worth billions of dollars to the economy - in the coming months even as a broader travel ban on international visitors remains.
Under stage three of the federal government's plan to roll back restrictions and create a "COVID safe" economy, residential colleges on university campuses may also be reopened.
These colleges could be used to facilitate the strict quarantine measures that would be imposed on any international arrivals.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the return of international students to universities around Australia was a "possibility" once the first two stages of relaxed measures were successfully implemented.
"Issues of international students, you'll note that it does come into the third step of the plan," he said.
"How you would work that through, well, they'd have to be carefully tested.
"So, we are open to that, and we would be working with institutions to see how that could be achieved."
Mr Morrison said it would have to be done according to "strict quarantine measures" and with a firm plan for how the costs of that would be met.
"There's a lot of steps to work through," he said.
"But, I mean, we're open to everything pretty much to get the Australian economy back and firing again as much as possible.
"We've just gotta step through it carefully."
The first two stages of the reopening will see universities start to gradually increase face-to-face teaching.
National COVID-19 co-ordination Commission chair Nev Power has stressed the importance of rebooting education, which is Australia's third largest export.
"There's an opportunity here for the universities to work with government to provide safe processes to get those students either in a holding pattern overseas, but then to expedite those visas, get those international students back here as quickly as we can," he told the AFR.
"We'll need to put quarantine provisions in. We'll need to make sure that unis are reconfigured to incorporate safe practices. But that way we can accelerate that because right now, this academic year, you could have them back."
Mr Power said Australia had a competitive advantage over other destinations for international students, such as the US, due to its comparative success suppressing COVID-19."
There's an opportunity for us to say 'how do we market our product out there much more strongly and use this as an opportunity','' he said.
Originally published as International students given path back to Australia