Australia and New Zealand unveil reopening plans for international students

Working through a careful plan of reopening their respective economies, Australia and New Zealand have signalled likely opening of border to international students.


Australia is moving towards Step 3 of its reopening plan to gradually remove current public health and travel restrictions. The government anticipates that the borders may once again be opened to international students. The timing of the Australian plan suggests that international students may be able to travel to the country again as of July, likely with some restrictions still in place and with strict post-arrival protocols that will include a quarantine period. Media reports suggest that any cohort of foreign students admitted in July would likely be drawn from a specific group of source countries where the virus has also been brought under control. That initial cohort will in effect also serve as a pilot that could lead to a larger intake in the latter months of 2020 and into 2021. Educators are understandably encouraged by the government’s announcement, and Universities Australia has expressed its support for the plan. Australia’s foreign enrolment grew by just under 10% in 2019 to reach nearly 760,000 students. This level of enrolment makes Australia the world’s second-leading study destination after only the United States.


New Zealand is now COVID-19 free. Education Minister Chris Hipkins made it clear that the New Zealand government was also working on a plan to allow international students to return to the country, likely before a wider opening for international tourists. The economic impact of the sector in New Zealand is estimated at NZD$5 billion. It is quite possible that NZ would be able to work with international education providers to manage a period of quarantine at the beginning of a year of study so they can come into New Zealand. The concrete proposals from the education sector could include enforceable quarantine periods for arriving students for about two weeks


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