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International students are dumping Australia for the UK and US due to border rules

But days before Gupta was scheduled to travel on that flight, the Australian government announced – in the wake of the release of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron – that it would delay the arrival of international students by two weeks.

Instead of being allowed into the country from December 1, international students are now scheduled to arrive from December 15, although Health Secretary Greg Hunt said he had “made no guarantees” about when he was asked this week.

“We intend at the end of that period, in accordance with scientific and medical advice, to return to previous settings. It will depend on international evidence,” he told Sky News.

“I packed my bags. I started filling out forms. I had booked myself [for] PCR test and all documents were ready. [But] In an instant, everything was useless. Mr. Gupta said: “It was heartbreaking.

While he is determined to continue studying in Australia after completing more than one year of the online course, Mr Gupta said many international students are reconsidering their plans to study in Australia, due to the country’s tough – and often capricious – border rules. .

According to Badri Aryal, director of Expert Education – a Sydney-based company that specializes in attracting international students to Australia – many students have already abandoned Australia.

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“We work with many countries around the world, but when I look at India, about 60 percent of the students who are going to come to Australia [now] Going to the United Kingdom, Canada or the United States.

His estimate is supported somewhat by data from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment earlier this year, which showed universities across Australia had seen a sharp decline in enrollments and start of courses in 2021.

“The number that really worries me is the 40 per cent drop in start-ups,” Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, told SBS News.

Catriona Jackson, CEO of Universities Australia.

Source: supplied

“Obviously this is largely a product of our closed borders [with] Students postpone their studies for another year [and some deciding] to go somewhere else.”

Sukhat Ali is one of those students who chose to study elsewhere.

He was a student at Macquarie University in Sydney when in March 2020 he traveled to his hometown of Gujarat in Pakistan for a family emergency.

On his way back to Sydney, Mr. Alli was at an international airport in Pakistan about to board a flight when he heard that Australia was closing its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents.

The entry ban went into effect as of 9pm EST on March 20, 2020.

“I missed it nine hours ago – my flight was supposed to land on March 21 in the early morning,” said Mr Alli, who has not been allowed to return to Australia since.

“For a year after that, I waited for Australia to reopen its borders to international students. I postponed my studies twice.”

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But in March 2021, Mr. Alli gave up and went to the UK instead where he is now a student at the University of Bradford.

He said he is not alone.

“There are five students I live with in Bradford, and they have all had similar experiences. In fact, I know at least 25 students who were studying in Australia, and they couldn’t go back because of border rules, so they went to other countries,” said Mr. Alli.

Ms. Jackson acknowledges that countries such as the US, UK and Canada benefit from Australia’s tough border policies.

“The government is aware of the fact that international education is very competitive and competing nations such as the US, UK and Canada are taking advantage of this moment in time – their borders are not closed,” she said.

“We know that [the] Preparation [of international students in] United Kingdom rose. It’s impossible for us to know if this is a direct drain from Australia, but we certainly recognize it and pay attention to it.

“It is certainly an issue that Australia as a country needs to address,” she added.

Bardi Ariel, Director of Expert Education.

Source: supplied

One way Australia can tackle this is by not closing its borders at the drop of the hat, according to Mr Ariel.

“This kind of alternative will come from time to time, but closing the borders is not the answer,” Mr. Ariel said.

We are one [most] Highly vaccinated countries in the world. We are approaching [a] 90 percent [rate], which is wonderful. It’s a big number when you compare it to countries like the UK, the US or Canada.”

Mr Aryal said, in order to boost consumer confidence and continue to attract international students, Australia needs to come up with a plan and stick to it.

“Government [should] Giving some kind of certainty regarding the opening of the borders, kind of real plan. We don’t want to be confused [the students] … Quarantine, non-quarantine, 72 hours, 15 days. We just want to give a solid plan to the students so they can build on those plans,” Mr. Ariel said.

The irony that other countries popular with international students have much lower vaccination rates than Australia is not lost on Ms. Jackson.

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“Of course, there is a paradox in the fact that it is difficult to get here and we are more vaccinated. [But] Australia chose a way to close the borders to control COVID and this was done with medical advice.”

Ms. Jackson is confident this is just a two-week delay and has a message for students waiting to return.

“We know you find it very difficult. We know that waiting – in some cases – for almost two years to be able to physically return to Australia is causing you incredible stress.

“We hope very much and we are very confident that it is just a two-week delay. So we ask that you just wait a little bit longer.”

Not being able to get to Australia is heartbreaking for international student Divij Gupta.

Source: supplied

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last month that the planned return of international students to Australia was a “major milestone”.

“The return of skilled workers and international students to Australia will boost our economic recovery, provide valuable workers that our economy needs and support our important education sector.”

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