international students
International students are historically Australia’s largest service export. Image – Canva.
  • The NSW government has announced a hotel quarantine program for international students
  • First part of the program will see accommodation provider Scape housing 650-students
  • International students could assist with shortages, as visas allow for 40 hours of fortnightly work

The Property Council of Australia (PCA) has welcomed the New South Wales government’s pilot plan for international students to return by the end of the year.

Under the plan, accommodation provider Scape will house returning students for a 14-day quarantine period in Redfern, in a building retrofitted to house up to 650 students.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the pilot program would slowly expand and evolve in line with improving vaccination rates across not just NSW, but also globally.

“The safety of the people of NSW is paramount and we are taking no risks,” said Mr Barilaro.

“All participating students will be required to be fully vaccinated with a TGA-recognised COVID-19 vaccine, and strict quarantine protocols will be in place.

John Barilaro, NSW Deputy Premier

“Importantly, this plan will not come at the expense of any Australian citizen or resident wishing to return home.”

“Our Scape team are proud to partner with the NSW Government and our world-class education sector, here in NSW, to welcome our returning international students into our most advanced and COVID-safe student accommodation facility at Scape Redfern,” added Scape CEO, Anouk Darling.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade data shows that, pre-Covid, education was Australia’s third-largest export after iron ore and coal.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet noted the sector was worth $14.6 billion to the state’s economy during 2019.

“International education plays an important role in connecting NSW to the world,” he said.

Students could fill staffing shortages

Luke Achterstraat, executive director of the Property Council NSW suggested that returning students could help alleviate staffing shortages.

Australia is unique in that international student visa holders are allowed to work legally – albeit up to a maximum of 40 hours per fortnight in most cases.

“While Australia’s economy is emerging from COVID-19 in far better shape than most of our international counterparts, there is no longer a large pool of international students able to balance their studies with 40 hours of work each fortnight.

“In addition to filling vacancies that are traditionally appealing to the student cohort, there has also been a big reduction to ancillary spending on tourism, food and beverage and other industries that have been the hardest hit during this pandemic.

Luke Achterstraat, Property Council NSW

luke achterstraat
Luke Achterstraat. Source: LinkedIn.

In March 2021, only 230 temporary student visa holders arrived – a decline of 99.7%.

“To be able to reconnect with our international education sector, which was worth $14.6 billion to NSW in 2019, this pilot plan will help lead our nation to regain confidence and kickstart our economy.”

Mr Achterstraat added the Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) Industry Working Group has begun discussing practical solutions to deal with the devastating impact of the pandemic on the sector.

“The PBSA industry is set to provide accommodation and pastoral support for over 114,000 students across Australia – its commitment to accelerating the education of international students evidenced with 31,000 purpose-built beds built across the country over the last five years is worth an estimated $9.3 billion,” he said.

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