Border controls push back international student return for UTAS

Border controls push back international student return in Tasmania

International students are unlikely to return to Tasmania before the end of the year, despite moves on the mainland to restart flights.

Premier Peter Gutwein's border lockdown extension effectively ruled out the prospect.

However, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham announced over the weekend that Adelaide would become a pilot site to bring international students back to Australia, with the first flights expected in early September.

University of Tasmania safety and wellbeing director Chris Arnold ruled out UTAS seeking to be part of the program, citing Tasmania's borders.

"With Tasmania's borders closed until at least December, there will be no international students travelling to the state until the situation changes," Mr Arnold said.

International students have been a significant economic driver for UTAS in the past and the university has suffered from a decline in numbers due to the border control measures and COVID-19.

Mr Arnold said there were about 8000 international students at UTAS studying from their home countries via online learning.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the tertiary education sector hard, with border and travel controls limiting the income from international students.

UTAS has forecast it will take a budget hit of between $30 and $34 million this year. That number is expected to double to between $60 and $120 million in 2021 and 2022.

UTAS staff voted to forego their scheduled pay increases, but redundancies are also on the cards. Expressions of interest for voluntary redundancies are being sought.

Mr Arnold said UTAS had implemented COVID-safe plans across all its campuses and any return of students from overseas would be carefully managed to ensure everyone's safety on campus.

"We have appropriate processes and facilities, which allow for well-supported and strictly controlled quarantine, to ensure the safety of the community and the well-being of our students," he said.

"We have already successfully managed the safe quarantine of interstate domestic students returning to Tasmania for their studies."

Students studying at UTAS were studying online during the first semester and for part of the second semester but some activities, such as research and other learning activities, have returned to campus.

Mr Arnold said UTAS' focus during semester 2 was to bring life and activity back to the university and provide students with opportunities to learn in person, although the bulk of learning is still done online.

A spokesperson for State Controller Darren Hine said border restrictions in Tasmania were based on the locations travellers have spent time in the 14 days prior to entering the state.

They said an international student was required to go through the same process as any other traveller in order to enter Tasmania.

Border controls require non-Tasmanian residents wishing to enter Tasmania to complete 14 day quarantine in government-managed accommodation at their own expense.

This story Border controls push back international student return in Tasmania first appeared on The Examiner.