International Student Return Path

Date —

15 July 2020

Industry Sector/s —
International Education

Summary —

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) has been involved in an ongoing series of discussions with the Australian Government on the return of international students in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. Confirmation of the arrangements for a pilot program to return students were provided in a high-level briefing provided by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment on 15 July 2020.

Key Issues —

In any given year there are more than 200,000 international students are studying with independent providers in the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors. It’s in this context that ITECA’s policy team in Canberra has been working extensively with the Australian Government to expedite arrangements that will allow students to return to take-up their studies with independent tertiary education providers.

The current framework is such that each state / territory government must present a plan to the Australian Government for approval. Presently, the return of students is limited to small-scale pilot programs in the current circumstances:


Pilot Program ― 
State / territory borders


The state / territory must have its borders open; however, it is understood that there may be some limited closures to deal with local outbreaks (e.g. current closures pertaining to Victoria). 


Pilot Program ― 
Quarantine Arrangements


Students arriving from overseas must do so in circumstances where there interaction with others is limited at the point of departure and that they be mandatorily quarantined upon arrival. The costs of this must be met by the provider or the state / territory government. 


Pilot Program ― 
Campuses  Must Be Open


A key requirement is that the campus must be open to students within the context of Covid-safe operations.

An over-arching requirement is that students coming to Australia must have a current student visa and that the return of students be incorporated within international arrival limits set by each state / territory and the Australian Government.

ITECA recognises that these measures are necessary from a public health safety standpoint; however, ITECA has advised the Australian Government that the pilot plan don’t suit most independent providers are they are framed to support public universities and a small number of large independent providers. In a practical sense, where the provider is expected to meet travel and quarantine costs the proposed pilot arrangements are cost-prohibitive in the context of supporting English language, vocational education and training, and many higher education students.

The informed consensus is that international students will not be able to travel to Australia in large numbers until the second-half of calendar 2021 unless there is a material change in the public health situation globally.

Along with stakeholders such as English Australia, ITECA is actively involved with each state / territory government to put in place arrangements for smaller independent tertiary education providers. 

Getting Involved —

ITECA’s ability to play a lead role in matters associated with this issue rests on the advice and guidance from individuals serving on the ITECA International Education Reference Committee.  ITECA Membership - it's a great time to get involved.

Further Information ―

If you're an ITECA member and would like more information on this topic the ITECA policy team would welcome the opportunity to talk to you and they can be reached via email at or by telephone on 1300 421 017. Stay up to date via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Disclaimer & Copyright —

This information may be reproduced in limited circumstances under a Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.  Information published on this webpage is intended for general information only and no warranty is providers as to accuracy or completeness thus any reliance you place on this material is therefore strictly at your own risk.


Other News


Academic integrity was high on the agenda when ITECA members met with the new TEQSA Chief Executive, Mr Alistair Maclean, this month. More


The International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating on 21 October 2020 highlights the threat that contract cheating poses to educational standards. More

Members Only

A new TEQSA report has identified improvements in the transparency of higher education admissions information, but what more needs to change? More