The international student 'Safe Passage' pilot program developed by The Australian National University and the University of Canberra in consultation with the ACT and Federal Governments, has been postponed.
Given the recent COVID developments, the universities have decided to postpone the well-advanced pilot plan to return 350 continuing students to Canberra campuses in late July until there is a clearer picture around the COVID trajectory.
The plan would have had a small number of international students recommence their Semester 2 studies on campus following 14 days, police-supervised quarantine in apartment-style accommodation. Strict protocols and testing were planned to be in place for their flights, transfers and supervised quarantine, with all students needing to return a negative test before leaving quarantine.
The universities have thanked the Prime Minister, Education Minister, Home Affairs Minister and ACT Chief Minister for their support for the pilot program and look forward to rolling it out at a later date.
The ACT has already overseen repatriation flights into Canberra Airport with passengers safely transferred to hotels and quarantined with the supervision of local authorities.
Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Canberra said:
"The health and safety of our students, staff, the university communities and that of the broader community has always been our first priority."
"Given the ever-evolving circumstance of this global pandemic, we think it best to press pause on our plans to return a small number of our valued continuing international students who contribute so much to the vibrancy of our city and our campus."
Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor and President of The Australian National University said:
"We have the support of the ACT Government and the Prime Minister has said the proposal is excellent. For both our domestic and international students, our most important focus is safety and wellbeing as well as student experience.
"We always said we would only undertake this program when it was safe for both our students, our campuses and the wider community. This is not an end to the program - just a delay - and we remain committed to ensuring our students can continue their studies back in Australia when the time is right.
"In the meantime, we will continue to support our students currently overseas so they can complete their studies with as little disruption as possible. We will keep working to make sure they get best possible experience, even if they can't be on our beautiful campus yet. We are all in this together."