International Students in Quarantine Roundtable outcomes


In November 2021, IEAA held an International Students in Quarantine Roundtable to explore the key elements in implementing a successful international student return program. Attracting over 300 registrations, the session proved to be very timely as education providers and stakeholders were preparing for the arrival of international students.

Danielle Hartridge
Independent, IEAA Board Member

The discussions were framed by two key questions: 

  1. What are the immediate considerations for supporting international students as they return to Australia
  2. What are the priorities and what resources would help.

Attendees were assigned to breakout rooms, and there was consensus on the two most important considerations: clear and consistent communication across the sector, and international student support. Listed below is a summary of the breakout group discussions.

Clear and consistent information

All groups highlighted the importance of communicating clear and consistent information, especially pertaining to travelling back to Australia. The need to have a reliable source of information that education providers could package with their communication to students. The Study Australia website provides the latest travel and visa advice, including a travel and pre-departure checklist and a step-by-step guide to visa and entry requirements.

Students must have a clear understanding of everything they need to do before they board a plane.

Students must have a clear understanding of everything they need to do before they board a plane, including the paperwork that needs to be completed, vaccination certification, what evidence will need to be provided when boarding the plane and arriving in Australia, accommodation options, arranging airport reception if offered by the education provider, specific state, or territory requirements for isolating and getting tested.

Advice regarding mask-wearing, QR code check-ins, vaccination entry rules, obtaining a test, or being deemed a close contact with someone who has COVID-19 have changed over the course of this summer, at a state and national level. 

Overseas Student Health Cover policy dates need to align with the time a student is in Australia and may require to be adjusted from when the policy was initially issued. Students will need to understand what is covered in their OSHC policy regarding COVID-19. 

Understanding the need to provide information to students across different platforms where the students are accessing information. Consider what information students need now and what information can be provided later, for example, during orientation.

International Student Support

International students will need targeted support to help with their transition. There will be students coming to Australia for the first time and others who are returning after a two-year absence who will need to be supported.

Education providers should proactively manage student wellbeing and ensure students are linked in early with support services, particularly about mental health.

There have been many staff redundancies and restructures. The staff whom students contacted for support in the past may no longer be working at their education provider. They will need to understand if any changes have occurred and who is their designated official contact person/s. These staff may be working with international students for the first time and will need to have undertaken specific training about cross-cultural understanding, the internal and external support available to international students and an understanding of the provider’s obligations under the ESOS framework.

Education providers should proactively manage student wellbeing and ensure students are linked in early with support services, particularly about mental health. Many students will arrive outside normal working hours. Consideration should be given to an after-hours service during peak arrival times.

Study programs have been disrupted due to deferments, reduced study loads, unavailability of placements etc. This will impact CoE end dates and the likelihood of needing to extend student visas. Students must have access to accurate course advice to discuss their study plan moving forward. There will be an expectation that when students return to face-to-face teaching, they will need to enrol at a full-time load unless compassionate or compelling circumstances exist. Some students may have let their enrolment lapse and be unaware that their CoE has been cancelled.

As we look toward a new chapter of managing the pandemic, it is essential to manage community perceptions of international students and enhance the international education community's social licence to operate. This was reflected strongly in the outcomes of the AIEC Activator last year. The IEAA Board has approved a significant investment in a public relations campaign that will aim to raise the importance and benefits of the sector in Australia.

IEAA members and participants are encouraged to submit any relevant resources or information regarding international student return programs to [email protected]. This information will be housed on IEAA’s Student Life Network page.

A recording of the webinar can be found in the Member Centre on the IEAA website.

About the Authors

Danielle has 30 years’ experience working in international education where she held senior roles in international student support and ESOS compliance. She has a deep understanding of the international education landscape and is a strong advocate for international students. A past president of ISANA: International Education Association and former convenor of the Admissions and Compliance Network. Danielle works closely with international education providers, offering consultation and advice on international education matters related to the international student experience and ESOS compliance. Danielle is an IEAA Senior Fellow.

The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA).