An action plan is needed to safely allow international students with existing visas back into NSW and help rebuild the education sector, according to the state’s leading business organisation, Business NSW.
“International education is a significant contributor to the NSW economy – before COVID-19 hit, Australia hosted around 570,000 international students, with the lion’s share in NSW,” said Stephen Cartwright, CEO of Business NSW.
“There are currently tens of thousands of international students with existing student visas waiting to return to NSW, and Australia.
“In the same way that we are planning how to reopen businesses in main streets and shopping centres, we need a plan of action to ensure these students return to our universities, TAFEs and private training institutions as soon as possible.”
Mr Cartwright, who is Chair of the NSW International Education Advisory Board, has written to the Federal Government asking for assistance for international students who lost jobs as a result of COVID-19 and are at risk of falling through the cracks of the various support packages.
“The NSW Government’s announcement of a $20 million support package providing emergency accommodation, legal support and a Service NSW hotline was a great first step and will help thousands of international students stranded in Australia without support,” he said.
“The Federal and NSW Government must now work with education providers to develop a longer-term strategy to reopen international education in Australia.”
Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said the University of Newcastle had more than 6,000 international students among is cohort of 37,000 students.
“They are an important part of the student community and the revenue received from international enrolments assists the university in broadening its offering for all students,” Mr Hawes said.
“Many overseas students also go on to contribute significantly to our local workforce, often in highly skilled areas.
"While we appreciate the need for extreme caution in reopening the national border, we encourage the development of a return-to-study strategy to give students, teaching staff and universities more certainty about the path forward.”
“We also applaud the University of Newcastle’s efforts to assist financially vulnerable international students who have been stranded here during the pandemic through the Student Hardship Fund, and we encourage businesses and our community to support this initiative.”