The restrictions on travel from China to Australia while authorities seek to contain the spread of coronavirus will have an impact on tens of thousands of international students from China.
Universities Australia Chair Professor Deborah Terry AO said universities “look forward to welcoming our international students as soon as possible – and our care and thoughts are with our students in China at this stressful time”.
Professor Terry thanked Minister Tehan for formally conveying the Government’s commitment to help manage the impact on students.
“That offer of ‘maximum flexibility’ from Government is so important – and we appreciate the commitment to work closely together through the challenges this situation presents,” she said.
“On behalf of our staff and students, I also want to thank the health officials who have worked tirelessly to update advice and provide clarification in this evolving situation,” she said.
Some of the many issues canvassed in today’s wide-ranging discussions included:
- An update on the impact on our students, and the round-the-clock efforts of our universities to support our students in China as this situation evolves;
- Seeking further information from the Department of Home Affairs on the visa status for people unable to enter Australia;
- Exploring flexibility for those students who need to renew their visa to stay in Australia because of the changed circumstances;
- Thanking the higher education regulator TEQSA for the guidance note issued on Friday to signal sensible flexibility in applying the national standards to take account of the evolving situation; and
- Noting the potential impact on students and staff of universities, other education providers, accommodation providers, and countless small and family businesses and communities across Australia who support our international students.
The Minister and the UA Board have agreed to meet again next week.
Professor Terry said Australian universities and the Australian Government were “as one” in sending a strong message of support to our students in China.
“To our students still in China – our care, concern and empathy are with you,” she said.
“We look forward to welcoming you warmly to Australia to start or continue your university studies here as soon as it becomes possible for you to travel.”
“We want to ensure as little disruption as possible to your studies – so please keep in touch with your university here in Australia as we keep you updated.”
“You are a vital part of our vibrant, warm, global community of students and scholars – and we will extend the greatest flexibility possible to help you through this time.”
Universities have been developing flexible study options for students affected by the travel decision, including exploring online study and the potential to delay semester start dates.
“To our students from China who are already with us here in Australia, the warmest of welcomes to you,” Professor Terry said.
“We know this will be a stressful time as your thoughts will rightly be with family and friends back in China as this situation unfolds.”
“You are crucial members of our close-knit university communities – and we will meet this challenge together.”