According to the Financial Review this morning the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) is examining ways of how international students could be flown into Australia under strict quarantine rules to study at Australian universities. We are hoping of course that all educational sectors are receiving the same royal treatment in ensuring jobs can be retained in this vital Australian industry.

However, the story misses the most obvious point of all and one which we hope the NCCC can address. Right now virtually every student in Australia studies in an online format so why can’t international students enrol in the courses they wish to study in Australia online before they get here? Why can’t they start their courses while they are at home?

It would appear the online study for local students will continue until the end of this year in one form or another so why not take advantage of the technological set up that already exists? International students could still apply for their visa to study in Australia and once granted they could enrol into their online programs and start their courses before they even leave their own countries. Then later when travel restrictions are eased they could come to Australia and complete their course.

Such a program could significantly increase the revenue of Australian education providers and it could also be an advantage for the students themselves. Instead of packing up their lives, moving to Australia and then discovering the course is not suitable for them after the 1st Semester, they are able to leave the program with the minimum of emotional and financial investment. If they think the course is suitable for them they could be allowed to enter Australia after their first semester with a further provision they must remain with that provider until the end of their course. This would also give a larger degree of economic certainty for the provider as well and that in the end, means jobs in Australia.

It would be expected that such online programs can be delivered at a cheaper cost as well. This is something Australian students are wondering at the moment, why there has not been a corresponding reduction in the tuition fees given they have no access to the physical grounds of the universities?

If such a program for international students can be arranged, there must be a concession in place for the online proportion of their study at home can be credited later towards the immigration laws defining the Australian Study Requirement. This is crucial to entice students to Australia as it has been since it’s inception more than a decade ago. The ASR must be met so former international students can have access to the 485 graduate visa which allows them to stay in Australia longer with work permission for at least 1.5 years and longer depending upon what they have studied.

Why hasn’t the NCCC floated such an idea to DoHA and the Australian public? After all our education study sector is one of Australia’s largest money earners of foreign currency so you would think it would get the attention it deserves. We need to catch international students before they consider studying in other countries. If they begin their courses at a cheaper rate then they will be more likely to come to Australia and finish them.

BTW do we even have an Immigration Minister out there developing COVID-19 recovery policies and perhaps new visa subclasses to revitalise this country?

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