Pilot program

Pilot program: background information

Current Status: 

The program is currently postponed accommodating recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria and NSW. The program will be re-activated at a more suitable time.


We remain committed to giving our students the opportunity to return to their Canberra home and study, but only want to do so if we can guarantee their health and wellbeing and provide a fulfilling student experience. 

This page outlines the intended process and selection criteria for the proposed ANU, University of Canberra and ACT Government joint Safe Passage Student Return (SPSR) Pilot program. The program involves bringing a charter flight of international students to Canberra. Processes and criteria are evolving as the plan progresses and are subject to change.

This page is for information only and is current as of 15 July 2020.

On this page you can find information about:

Proposed Conditions of Return

Students must satisfy and agree to the following basic criteria for the Safe Passage Student Return (SPSR):

  • Visa: Students are required to hold a valid visa for study in Australia, and where applicable, appropriate health cover per their visa requirements. Students are responsible for any visa application and related costs.
  • Pre-departure tests: Students may be required to take a COVID-19 test and confirm a negative result prior to departure. 
  • Flights and departure: ANU, UC and ACT Government will arrange a charter flight to bring students to Australia. The departure city (and any stopovers) for this charter flight is yet to be confirmed. Once the departure city and flight date is confirmed students will need to organise their own travel to the departure city to board the charter flight.
  • Testing: Final clearance for departure on the charter flight may be subject to students satisfying relevant health checks prior to the flight and satisfying any additional testing or temperature checks required at the airport by local authorities and/or the charter airline.

Proposed Selection Criteria

This Pilot will prioritise students nearing completion of their program. Students will be ranked for participation in the Safe Passage Student Return (SPSR) according to the following proposed criteria.

  • Students (undergraduate, postgraduate and HDR) in the final semester of their program (four or fewer courses remaining)
  • Any other remaining continuing higher degree by research students
  • Any other remaining continuing coursework students (undergraduate and postgraduate) with two semesters (eight or fewer courses) remaining, who must complete a face-to-face component such as laboratory, studio or fieldwork activities as part of their degree
  • All other continuing students sorted by length of study remaining
  • Where there are more eligible students than flight seats available, the universities may use additional criteria to prioritise students including GPA.

Further notes:

  • These are proposed selection criteria and will be further refined once the charter flight and number of available seats is confirmed.
  • A continuing student is defined as a student who commenced study (on campus or remotely) in Semester 1 2020 or earlier.
  • The flight will be shared with students from the University of Canberra.
  • The pilot is open to ANU and UC international students of all nationalities who hold a current visa for Australia.


The ACT Government and ANU will share in the following costs:

  • ground transfers in Canberra
  • quarantine accommodation
  • 24-hour medical services and on-site testing

Students will be expected to cover costs including:

  • pre-departure health clearance and testing
  • charter flight ticket
  • travel to the departure hub

Formal invitation to participate: forthcoming in July

Once SPSR is reactivated, all ANU and UC offshore international students will be formally invited to submit an application to participate in the program. Places on the program will be allocated in accordance with the above selection criteria.

All students will be provided with further details regarding the pilot including final costs, departure dates and arrangements before they need to make the decision to formally participate.

Those who are not selected will be placed on a waiting list in priority order.

Successful applicants will have seven days to confirm their acceptance, pay for their flight using an online portal provided by the airline and finalise payment of tuition fees.

Successful applicants will be provided with an acceptance document which will include agreement to the conditions of the pilot including health and testing requirements.

If an invited participant does not accept or pay for their flight and tuition fees within the timeframe then their seat will be forfeited. Unallocated places will be offered to the next student on the waitlist until such time as either the flight is full or the final booking deadline passes.

Students who are waitlisted for first round of the pilot will be considered for any subsequent round, with expected flight departure later in 2020. Waitlisted students will be provided advice throughout the process and kept informed as to next steps and any available flight seats.

Arrival and Transition

Upon arrival to Canberra, students will undergo customs and immigration procedures at the airport. Students who satisfy temperature checks upon arrival will transition by bus to their 14-day quarantine accommodation, to be managed by ACT Health. Any students displaying any COVID-19 symptoms on arrival will receive immediate medical attention.

Quarantine accommodation

Students will be housed in Canberra hotels for a 14-day quarantine period. 24-hour medical support will be available for any student who believes they may have symptoms or require any other medical assistance. ANU will provide a comprehensive program of academic and wellbeing support to all students during the quarantine period including regular check-ins on all students. Students must advise of any dietary requirements and pre-existing medical conditions during the application process.

All quarantined students will be tested at least once for the COVID-19 virus by a medical practitioner (provided by ACT Health). ACT Health will approve students to depart quarantine at the end of the quarantine period.

Transition to on-campus study

Once the 14-day quarantine period is ended, students will be able to join the ANU community for on-campus classes, following the social distancing protocols in place across the campus. Students will be supported throughout the transition to on-campus study.

Please note that applications for on-campus accommodation are managed separately to this Pilot project. A place on the pilot, therefore, does not guarantee you an on-campus accommodation place. Questions about accommodation should be directed to Residential Experience.

Questions and Contacts

If you have any additional questions about the Pilot program, please contact Student Central: student@anu.edu.au or visit their site for further contact information. We will do our best to respond within 2-3 business days. We ask that you do not send multiple emails for the same enquiry.