Australia has been one of the preferred destinations for Indian students interested in pursuing international education. However, for the 92,383 Indians and several more planning to enter universities in Australia, travel restrictions have forced them away from campuses post COVID-19.
Cases of newer virus strains in Australia meant more lockdowns and stricter travel and visa policies in recent weeks, which have impacted Indian students badly. The Indian government has urged the Australian government to take steps and come up with solutions to gradually allow Indian students to return to campuses.
At a recent ministerial-level discussion, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar raised the issues faced by Indian students unable to travel to universities Down Under and discussed possible solutions with Sen. Marise Payne, the minister of foreign affairs in Australia.
Jaishankar said that the government has heard many times from the students and that it understands their frustrations and feelings. He said that most students would want to attend classes at the institutions they are enrolled in or want to study in.
The foreign minister also said that the issue of resuming in-person classes and returning to campuses is not limited to just Australia. There have been issues with the United States earlier and there still are challenges in enabling Indian students to return to Canada. Jaishankar stated that the Indian government has put the issue on an extremely high priority and is taking it up “very vigorously” with its foreign partners.
Payne said that she is a keen advocate of welcoming the Indian students back into the Australian tertiary education system as soon as possible. The engagement between Indian and Australian students, along with the Indian diaspora, is something that her country looks forward to.
She said that their government understands the effect of the pandemic on Indian students enrolled in or planning to join Australian universities as they miss out on the on-campus life and in-country experiences. The COVID-19 curbs have obstructed the movement of not just international travellers, but also the Australian public, including ministers, who have to follow quarantine rules.
Explaining her country’s approach in dealing with the return of international students, Payne said that her government is following suggestions based on the Doherty Institute’s research and strategies through a four-phase pandemic response pathway.
Teams from across the country, including experts from the institute, are working on particular issues and challenges faced by states and territories, specific populations, and high-risk settings.
The Australian government is on course to vaccinate its people to a level that will give it an assurance and confidence to start easing restrictions and reopening borders. This will eventually help international students, especially Indians, to return in subsequent phases in a “much more open environment for international travel.”
India is one of the top higher education markets for Australia. High-quality higher education opportunities, alongside attractive work and migration options and a world-class vocational system, attract Indian students to the country.
The federal executive government, along with territory governments, will decide which higher education institutions and students can participate in an International Student Arrival Plan that includes travel and quarantine arrangements for returning students.
As per the Australian Department of Home Affairs, universities will identify international students who could be eligible to return to the country under an approved plan.