After a year of border closures, international students will return to NSW universities from mid-2021 under a new pilot program

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  • International students will be permitted to return to New South Wales under a new plan greenlit by the state government.
  • Under the pilot arrangement, 250 students will be permitted entry from mid-year, and will undergo quarantine in specially-built facilities.
  • Those entries will come above and beyond the state’s existing cap on international arrivals, and the plan will now head to Canberra for the final sign-off.
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New South Wales has signed off on an Australian-first plan to welcome international students back into the state, more than a year after the country slammed its border shut in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking in Sydney on Thursday, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced the state government has approved a plan which will permit entry for 250 students a fortnight from the mid-year.

Those students will be directed to quarantine at specially-built facilities outside of the state’s existing hotel quarantine system, Perrottet said.

International students will be permitted entry above and beyond the state’s existing caps on returning travelers.

“This won’t come at the expense of returning Aussies,” Perrottet said in a statement. “We will continue to bring back 3,000 people per week – well more than any other state.”

Taxpayers are not expected to foot the bill, with the university sector itself stepping up to handle costs.

Contract negotiations for that purpose-built housing are “well advanced,” a government spokesperson said.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of months of work from the university sector, which was left reeling when Australia’s border closure severed New South Wales’ tertiary education providers from the international market.

New South Wales has lost an estimated $1.5 billion in economic activity for each month the international border has been closed, and the loss of international students studying in-person has had a profound impact on the education sector nationwide.

The University of Sydney warmly welcomed Thursday’s announcement, with a spokesperson saying it “prioritises the health and safety of the community, as well as the enormous economic and cultural benefits our international education sector provides.”

“We can’t wait until all our students are able to safely join us on campus,” they added.

The plan, which was developed in conjunction with NSW Health and NSW Police, will now come before the Federal Government for the final sign-off.

It is expected the plan will eventually receive the green light from Canberra, after Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg last month declared the government will “look favourably” on any quarantine schemes which receive the all-clear from Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Kelly.