International students could head back to Australia within months as universities plan for how they can be safely quarantined and cleared of coronavirus.
The higher education sector has been hit hard by a drop off in international students as the pandemic led to border closures.
The government’s early move to stop people coming from China was especially damaging, with that country the largest source of international students to Australia.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said universities should put forward suggestions about how they could bring international students back to campuses.
“We are welcoming of proposals for universities – subject to it being at the same time as their general student populations – to look at means of bringing back through supervised, stringent quarantine, international students,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“That is something that both state and federal governments would be willing to consider.”
Universities Australia is working with health and immigration officials on an overarching framework.
The peak body says institutions will be in a position to have detailed discussions with their state governments once the commonwealth has agreed to the basic ground rules.
But it says the sector will need to have resumed face-to-face teaching before international students return.