Problems with first-in-line plan for China students

Who would be head of queue

On Thursday, the PM announced the COVID-19 ban on travel from China was in-place for another week. But the Health Department suggested there could be, “a temporary relaxation of the travel restrictions to allow entry to a larger number of tertiary students,” if the situation in China continued to improve.

And the PM added, “there’s been a lot of discussions going on between the university and school sector and we will be considering some of those arrangements.”

The outcome for the school sector was announced Saturday, when entry was granted to the 760 Chinese students enrolled in Y11 and Y12, on the same terms as Australians, 14-day self-isolation.

One of the other discussions was about a proposal to prioritise some higher education students and fly-in those with the strongest need to be here first for classes, say in batches of 1000.

Suggested target groups included research postgrads, students in lab/studio-intense programmes and those who would complete courses this semester.

The government was interested in helping and HE policy-politics wonks (the wonkiest!) were tasked with creating with a plan.

But while universities welcomed the principle, the practicalities were a problem –  what disciplines, which institutions, where to find students to ask. As of Friday, it all just got too hard.

At the announcement of the school decision Saturday, Education Minister Dan Tehan said that depending on medical advice something could be done for tertiary students this week but that nothing is decided.