State cutting it fine on $5.6b deadline
Queensland risks missing the deadline to get its proposal to partially restart its $5.6 billion international student sector, despite having sat on a draft plan for months.
It comes as new financial data reveals Queensland universities took in a whopping $1.48 billion in fees from full-fare-paying overseas students in 2019.
University of Queensland was the most reliant on the international students, raking in $678 million in fees.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has again urged the states to get plans to him by the end of this month, for international student schemes starting after Christmas.
Queensland has had a draft pilot program for 300 students already enrolled but currently overseas to be allowed to return here under strict quarantine procedures, which has been with the Chief Health Officer since at least August.
Mr Tehan said Queensland's universities remained in a strong financial state.
"Universities are autonomous institutions responsible for their own management, as with any business, it is important to have diversified sources of income," he said
International Education Association of Australia boss Phil Honeywood warned that if the state did not act soon it could miss out, with NSW, SA and the Northern Territory having already submitted proposals.
"The danger for Queensland and Victoria is that NSW will take significant market share off the other two major states," he said.
Tourism Industry Development and Innovation Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the state government was working with the CHO, education providers and the Federal Government to develop a COVID safe plan, but would not say if one would be submitted before the deadline.
"The Palaszczuk Government has identified international education as an important component of Queensland's COVID-19 economic recovery plan," he said.
A UQ spokeswoman said semester two enrolments for international students had been stronger than expected, with many studying online after deferring at the start of the year.
"However, there continues to be much uncertainty about 2021," she said.
"The university will continue to work with various government agencies locally to plan for the safe return of international students to Australia in the coming months."
The Federal Government has ruled out the return of international students currently offshore this year, to ensure hotel quarantine space is kept open for returning Australians.
Before the COVID crisis, international education was worth $5.6bn to the state's economy and it supported 27,000 jobs.
The Financial Report for Higher Education released on Wednesday revealed Queensland universities took in a combined $6 billion in revenue in 2019, up 7.9 per cent on the previous year, of which $1.48 billion was from overseas student fees.
While UQ had the highest receipt for international student fees and charges, QUT also recorded $245 million from overseas students and Griffith University about $193 million.
The UQ spokeswoman said the university had been prudent in managing its finances, with early action to reduce expenses and defer major construction projects.
Originally published as State cutting it fine on $5.6b deadline