China Travel Ban Continues to Impact ANU Community
By Lottie Twyford
The Australian Government has extended its China travel ban until 9 March, leaving many Chinese students still unable to begin their 2020 studies. The travel ban is one of a number of ways that the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has impacted Chinese international students.
4000 of ANU’s Chinese students have been affected by the travel ban, out of more than 60 000 Chinese students impacted nationally. The ban is now into its fifth week, and seems unlikely to be lifted in the near future.
10 March is the last day for students to enrol in classes for Semester One. ANU has stated on an COVID-19 FAQ on its website that those unable to start classes by this date “might wish” to defer their studies for a semester. Alternative study options, such as winter school and intensives, are currently being investigated. A spokesperson for the ANU told Observer that the University has been “working closely with the Government” in order to respond to COVID-19 and the imposed travel restrictions. Furthermore, the spokesperson stated that ANU is “committed to being as flexible and supportive of our students for as long as needed”.
The ANU has made it possible for more than 650 courses to be undertaken via remote participation, and 87% of students affected by the travel restrictions have chosen to do so.
ANUSA General Representative Vincent Lee, who remains stranded in China, has chosen to participate remotely in his Linguistics and Philosophy courses this semester, despite the “interactive” and discussion-based nature of these subjects. Lee notes that internet access in China has been difficult, making his use of “the most basic thing[s] like Echo and Wattle” an issue. Lee stated that, although his remote experience has not been as good as in-person participation, his lecturers and peers had so far been “extremely supportive” which has been “heart-warming”.
The financial impact of COVID-19 on Australian universities is likely to be severe, with The Australian reporting that the higher education sector could lose $1.2 billion in fees from international students who are unable to arrive in Australia. However, the ANU confirmed yesterday in its update that there “are no current plans to freeze spending” as a response to this loss.
An ANU spokesperson today confirmed to Observer that ANU will be implementing a ‘care package’ for all students who have been affected by the travel restrictions. Under this plan, students will have the ability to claim up to $5000 in reimbursement for the “costs they have incurred as a consequence of the travel restrictions”, including the costs of travel, accommodation, and self-isolation. Students will be able to claim this package if they are enrolled at the ANU after 3 June 2020. Melbourne University and the University of Adelaide have provided similar financial assistance packages, including grants of up to $7500, or packages including discounted fees and up to $2000 in contributions towards airfares.
Affected students also face uncertainty in their housing situation. ANU is requesting all students to continue making payments “as per their occupancy agreements”. If students have chosen not to defer their studies, they must continue to pay for their accommodation if they want it to be available when they return. Lee informed Observer that, for many international students, the relaying of information relating to accommodation has been extremely slow.
A motion raised at SRC 1 last night would have seen ANUSA condemn in writing both the travel ban and the decision of ANU residences to continue to charge stranded international students. The motion was proposed by Grace Carter, a member of the Socialist Alternative (SAlt), and all of the speakers for the motion were also SAlt members. International Students Officer LC Yip spoke against the motion, claiming that international students need “practical solutions” rather than a written condemnation. Yip also stated that her collective should have been consulted prior to the writing of the motion. The motion ultimately did not pass.
In an email update released yesterday evening, ANU urged staff and students to remain calm, as there are currently no confirmed cases of the virus in the ACT. They also offered advice on how best to prevent the spread of viruses. This includes regular hand washing, use of hand-sanitiser, and staying at home if suffering from flu-like symptoms. Citing the “complex and evolving situation”, the University has also confirmed that it will continue to update students and staff through twice-weekly emails.
A spokesperson for the ANU also told Observer that an “advanced pandemic plan” is in place, and that they are monitoring the situation in order to be able to respond as necessary. They went on to assert that the safety of the ANU community remains the University’s “highest priority”.
Contributing reporting by Adelle Millhouse
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