An international education sector that was worth $5.8 billion to Queensland economy before the pandemic could be on track for a revival, with the state government planning to use an under-construction quarantine facility to welcome student arrivals for the first semester of 2022.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced international students will be the first to use the regional quarantine facility being built at Wellcamp outside Toowoomba - a project slated to be partially operational by the end of this year and due for completion in mid-2022.
The announcement comes with two conditions. A proportion of students must study at universities outside of Brisbane, and priority will be given to medical and health students who will work for Queensland Health.
The Premier said Wellcamp provides the perfect solution so that the students do not displace returning Australian citizens and residents.
"This is why we went it alone to make Wellcamp a reality," she said.
"It gives Queensland an opportunity other states don’t have."
Tourism, Innovation and Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said 20,000 students enrolled with a Queensland university had been studying offshore.
“While remote learning has made it possible for students to continue Queensland university studies from their home countries, we recognise it isn’t a sustainable, long-term substitute for to face-to-face tutorials and practical experience," Minister Hinchliffe said.
“We also know international students make an important contribution to the culture of Queensland cities and our regions.
“International students are an important source of workers for many businesses in Queensland’s regional and metropolitan areas."
He added the absence of international students had been particularly felt in the rural, hospitality and tourism industries.
Minister Hinchliffe explained a Student Arrivals Plan had been sent to the Federal Government in response to the Commonwealth’s Protocols and Preconditions for International Student Arrivals.
"This plan is the first phase of scaling up from semester one and seeing more students return to Queensland over time," he said.
Professor Sandra Harding, Vice Chancellor and President of James Cook University, and Chair of the Queensland Vice Chancellor Committee, said the sector had worked collaboratively with the State Government.
“We are delighted the State Government has progressed plans to bring back international students,” Professor Harding said.
“These students have been studying online for almost two years waiting to return to Queensland and many of them need to undertake important practical assessments to complete their studies.
“International students are such a vibrant part of all of our campuses and communities, and we look forward to welcoming them back to our state.”
Updated at 2:08pm AEST on 26 October 2021.
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