UNIVERSITIES Australia has emphasised the importance of following "expert health advice" in relation to COVID-19, saying a new testing requirement for travellers from China doesn't close the door to its students.
The peak body has 39 member universities, including the University of Newcastle (UON). Chief executive Catriona Jackson said COVID-19 was "highly unpredictable and can have significant health, social and economic costs, as we have learned over the last two years".
"We should continue to be guided by expert health advice, as we always have, in responding to emerging situations and we support the government's focus on keeping people safe," Ms Jackson said.
"Importantly, this decision does not close the door to Chinese students returning to Australia to start or continue their university studies.
"In line with the health advice, they will be required to test negative to COVID-19 before entering Australia.
"This is a sensible measure in response to the evolving situation in China, and mirrors what other countries are doing.
"China is our biggest market of international students, yet around 36 per cent enrolled in our universities remain outside of the country.
"Australia's universities are ready to welcome back international students and we will be working closely with government and students to ensure their safe return to our campuses.
"Education is Australia's largest services export, contributing over $40 billion to the economy and supporting 250,000 jobs in 2019.
"It's imperative we do everything we can to recover the position of strength we held prior to the pandemic."
Travellers from China including Hong Kong and Macau will be required from January 5 to take a COVID-19 test within the 48 hours prior to travel and show evidence of a negative result.
UON Vice Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky said in November the number of offers to international students for semester and trimester one this year were more than 20 per cent higher than at the same time in 2019 before COVID-19, with strong growth from countries including India, Nepal, China, Vietnam and Pakistan.
However there had been a decline in domestic enrolments.
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