While the halls and classrooms at La Trobe University in Bendigo have been quiet for almost two years, the organisation is bracing for an influx of international students next year. 

It comes after the federal government announced this week that fully vaccinated international students will be allowed to enter Australia from next month without seeking an exemption.

The Victorian government will allow vaccinated students to skip quarantine.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Speed said the announcement caught the university off guard. 

“We didn’t have much in the way of forewarning,” he said.

“We’d been planning for the return of students on a small scale for a long time, but the sudden switch to a large scale has given us an opportunity we have to respond to.” 

Scholarships to boost international enrolment

In a silver lining, the federal government has allocated the university 30 Destination Australia scholarships worth more than $60,000 each to attract more international students to its regional campuses. 

“Our student numbers at the start of 2020 in Bendigo were the highest we’d seen for many years, and now with students coming to join us again we’re really excited about the prospects of what we can do in our regional communities,” Professor Speed said.

“When COVID hit we had just introduced a new strategy to bring more students to regional campuses, and Bendigo in particular, and that was working.”

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor pointed out the last few days had been busy as the university deals with an influx of inquiries.

Professor Speed said it was hard to determine exactly how many students will come due to uncertainty around flights into Australia.

He is hopeful if flights increase it will lead to more job opportunities and vibrancy on campus.

Masters of teaching student Socha Curtis is from England and is looking forward to seeing more international students in Bendigo.

“It will bring in more cultures. Although Australia is quite progressive, in my opinion there could be more cultural diversity,” she said. 

Ms Curtis hopes it will also help her to become a better teacher.  

“Being able to speak to an international student about their culture helps to understand the kids’ cultures better and also their parents’ cultures,” she said. 

Positive influence 

man standing with arms crossed, smiling at a university
Paramedicine lecturer David Burns says international students bring a new perspective to courses. (ABC Central Victoria: Sarah Lawrence)

Paramedicine lecturer David Burns has seen the positive impact overseas students can make.

“It helps us understand where we can head to and appreciate how lucky we are in Australia. 

“Young enquiring minds are always asking questions and there’s a lot of interaction with the international students.”

Due to the pandemic, second-year paramedicine student Jenna McNair has never had classes with students from overseas but is looking forward to seeing more of them next year.

“It allows more friendships and social connections to be made. It’ll be great,” she said. 

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