New South Wales
New South Wales

‘They’ve failed desperate, stranded uni students’

It was the $20 million "crisis accommodation for stranded international students" package announced amid a global pandemic.

But one month later international students across the state are still, well, stranded.

As universities scramble to stop international students going to other countries - taking an estimated $31.9 billion in economic activity with them - the state government's crisis accommodation program has failed to place one student.

It has also failed to process a single application for accommodation, leaving some students without any lodgings.

The University of Sydney campus.
The University of Sydney campus.

Administrative arrangements and eligibility criteria were finalised this week, but the opposition deputy leader and property spokeswoman Yasmin Catley says the program has taken too long.

"It has taken a whole month for these students to even be able to apply for rent relief," Ms Catley said of the program, which was announced May 15.

"Students are telling us they are spending all the money they have on rent and have nothing left for the basics like food and bills.

"We know that universities have been tipping in hundreds of millions of dollars to help these struggling students survive since March. Where has the government been for all that time?

"They've been missing in action and have completely failed these desperate students."

Skills and Tertiary Education Minister Geoff Lee.
Skills and Tertiary Education Minister Geoff Lee.

The program is open to students who have been evicted or are about to be, are down to their last $1500, don't have a job or any other avenue of support.

Student groups have reported students are couch surfing, relying on soup kitchens and are unable to find work - but are not yet out on the street.

The National Union on Students said those in regional areas have been hardest hit because of a lack of wider support available.

Skills and Tertiary Education Minister Geoff Lee did not comment, but a NSW Government spokesman said students can apply for NSW Government-funded temporary crisis accommodation from Monday, June 15.

"Eligibility criteria and administrative arrangements were finalised this week, allowing the application portal to go live from Monday (15 June)," the government spokesman said.

"Accommodation placements will begin as soon as possible next week, with priority given to regional areas."

Western Sydney University.
Western Sydney University.

The accommodation initiative is part of a $20 million package announced in May to help international students stranded in Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic find safe accommodation.

Asia-Pacific Student Accommodation President Marion Bayley represents 19 NSW university residential colleges.

"We welcome the work being done but it is disappointing that it has taken longer than what we would have liked to get these students into crisis rooms," she said.

"I am unsure why the government announced this without a clear process in place."

The debacle has come at a bad time for universities as Australia's reputation as a safe haven for international students comes under attack from Chinese state media

China has warned students not to travel to Australia following a number of racially-charged assaults on Chinese students.

Originally published as 'They've failed desperate, stranded uni students'

NSW Labor deputy leader Yasmin Catley.
NSW Labor deputy leader Yasmin Catley.

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