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Welcome back: Queensland's grand plan to lead return of international students

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A plan to bring international students back to Queensland has been finalised and will be considered by the Federal Government in a much-needed boon to Queensland’s tertiary sector.

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The State Government confirmed Study Queensland had finalised documentation to be considered by Queensland’s Chief Health Officer and approved by the Federal Government to potentially return international students to some universities.

The plan for Queensland to move ahead with the return of international full-fee paying students comes as a pilot program to return international students to universities in Canberra, approved by the Federal and ACT governments, was postponed last week due to escalating concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

The Canberra plan to have students from Asia arrive for second semester at the Australian National University and University of Canberra was intended to pave the way for the large-scale return of international students to institutions across the country.

The suspension of the plan leaves Queensland, with zero new cases of coronavirus recorded overnight and only four active cases, as the state most likely to lead the Australian pilot for the recovery of international education that supports thousands of jobs and injects billions of dollars into the state and national economy.

“This industry is vital to Queensland’s economic recovery,” a State Government spokesperson said.

Universities, financially devastated by the loss of international students due to travel bans and coronavirus restrictions, welcomed the potential move as a significant step.

Griffith University Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Debra Henly said the university was looking forward to international students returning to campuses.

“The University is working closely with state and federal governments to put in place a safe and sustainable way for that to occur,” Henly said.

The potential return of international students comes as many Queensland universities continue the cautious return of on-campus learning across the state.

Henly said while the majority of Griffith students had started Trimester 2 this week online, face-to-face learning would ramp up in a month.

“Noting advice from the Queensland Chief Health Officer, all Griffith lectures will remain online during the trimester,” she said.

“From week 5, we will offer high-quality small group on-campus teaching, which is something our students are really looking forward to.”

At the University of Queensland, students in Semester 2 from 3 August can continue to learn online or return to learning on-campus.

“The University of Queensland is offering a range of options for students in Semester 2 including on-campus learning and online study for those unable to join in person,” a UQ spokesperson said.

But Southern Cross University on the Gold Coast said it would continue almost all classes online into next year and had cancelled all graduation ceremonies.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker said the decisions reflected the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Victoria and concerning spikes in NSW.

“We are continuing to maintain our teaching and other operational activities with an abundance of caution until such time that the COVID situation shows signs of easing,” Shoemaker said.

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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