Nation leading program to help return international students

Message to staff
22 June 2020

Message to staff from Professor Grady Venville, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) on 22 June 2020

Dear colleagues

Last week, ANU and the University of Canberra (UC) launched a nation-leading joint pilot program that will see a small cohort of continuing international students safely return to Canberra, and paves the way for international students to begin returning to campus in the future.

The plan will see a charter flight carrying up to 350 students arrive at Canberra Airport in July for semester two, with returning students quarantined in hotels for a fortnight before returning to campus. The ACT Government has approved the pilot, and the Prime Minister has recognised the proposal. This work is the culmination of many hours of hard work and careful planning between ANU, UC and the ACT Government. It is a demonstration of our national leadership role.

This is an exciting development for our community. It means our students who have been studying remotely overseas for semester one will receive the distinctive on campus experience and education we are known for the world over. Throughout this pandemic, we have worked hard as a University to keep all our students engaged with their studies - and the vast majority of them have. This comes down to the incredible dedication of our academic and professional staff, and our students. I am proud of all that we have achieved over the last semester.

I want to stress that this pilot has been put together with our students' best interests in mind. As the students who return are already enrolled at ANU, this is not a program that will generate income for the University. It is about making sure our students continue to receive the high-quality learning experience that attracted them to ANU and Canberra in the first place. And of course, we all as a community stand to benefit by having many of our students return to campus. Canberra is Australia's knowledge capital, and our international students are a vital part of this. We are a more vibrant place with their presence. For many of our students, Canberra has become home. So, it is wonderful to know that we have a pathway for them to begin returning home. Our entire community has missed them and we cannot wait to welcome them back. 

While the operational details of the pilot are still being finalised with our partners, including the arrangement for students to apply to return, there are a number of key elements that will shape the program:

  • Pilot participants will all be continuing students who have previously studied in Canberra but had their return delayed due to COVID-19, with priority being given to students studying research or postgraduate courses, honours students and those in the final year of their undergraduate degree.
  • Students will come from a range of countries.
  • The decision on potential airline carriers and airports will be based on strict health and safety as well as practical travel considerations.
  • Students will be in supervised quarantine in hotels for 14 days when they arrive in the ACT and before returning back into the campus and wider community.
  • Strict protocols will be in place for the students' pre-departure health checks, fights, transfers and supervised quarantine.

Now that we have the 'green light' for the program we will inform our eligible students of these details as soon as we can.

We will also learn from the pilot. As a pilot program, we will have reviews and safety checks along the way to ensure the health of the entire ANU community, the wider ACT population and returning students. As always, the safety and wellbeing of our community is our highest priority. From these lessons, we will look to build on the pilot and roll out this program more widely if it continues to be safe and appropriate.

We also start from an incredibly strong base. The ACT has already overseen repatriation flights into Canberra Airport with passengers safely transferred to hotels and quarantined with the supervision of local authorities. Fortunately, here in Canberra our continued vigilance against the coronavirus means will are well placed to start welcoming people from our community back to our community. And we will continue to be vigilant.

We also understand that this may be a difficult time for these students returning to study in Canberra, so we will be doing everything we can to ensure their health and wellbeing is looked after. During quarantine students will be provided with medical assistance, wellbeing packages and mental health assistance.  This is a chance for our students to prepare for semester two and all the excitement and opportunity being at ANU provides them.

I want to thank everything involved in the successful launch of this pilot, and I look forward to its continued success. This year has been incredibly challenging for all of us. It has not gone as we initially planned. Nothing has been normal. This is one step - one important step - in returning to the ANU life we all love and know.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)