Australian universities’ broken Covid promises will not be forgotten

As an international student, I applied with great enthusiasm to study at a reputable Australian university in 2020. As a mature student with a career in global business, I chose Australia for a combination of economic reasons, its relative proximity to my own country and its excellent management of Covid so far.

After the university promised that we should be on campus in early 2021, I took the plunge and invested most of my savings. The opening date was later pushed back to mid-2021, but it was said that state and federal governments would add quarantine space and establish contingency plans to deal with Covid, allowing certain population groups , such as international students, to be accommodated. return. Many clung to that promise, including myself.

In the meantime, we were paying over A$38,000 (£20,000) in annual fees to study online. The quality was terrible. Some professors and library staff were unwilling to help us or did not respond to emails at all. Some lecturers would turn off lectures as soon as they were done speaking, not allowing questions to be asked. Some speakers were unable to use Teams or neglected to turn on their cameras. Others decided to cut classes altogether, claiming that the university was not an online institution. When classes were held, they were sometimes at 3 a.m. on my time.

No labs, library access or excursions were offered to international students, although we were constantly informed of all the discounts, funding, activities, excursions and hands-on experiences that students on campus received – funded in part by our excessive international fees. Yet most of us, myself included, did not complain for fear of negative feedback from teachers and denial of access to learning materials.

In mid-2021, our return to campus was again pushed back and my annual A$5,000 international scholarship was terminated after I upgraded from a bachelor’s to a master’s degree in the same field. I began to see classmates make the difficult decision to postpone their studies due to economic and health difficulties. Others decided to switch to institutions in countries like the UK and Canada, where international students were welcomed with open arms or offered heavily reduced fees if they continued online.

I also started seeing friends getting backlash online when they talked about wanting to enter Australia. We had all lost friends and family, but we were treated like viruses that wanted to infect Australians. All we wanted was a safe entry plan. All of the double-dose students were ready to self-quarantine.

Even when international students have formed a task force to constructively engage with the university and government on how to improve the quality of education and bring us home safely, progress has been mixed. . Class schedules were improved and, impressively, the university quickly built learning centers in China. But they didn’t help me personally and I decided to look for education opportunities elsewhere.

The problem was that my online degree credits would apparently not be transferable to the universities I contacted in the UK and Canada. So I was stuck in limbo online, forced to study in a state and country that didn’t want me, at a university that made no effort to pick up the slack.

Two years later, neither the state nor the university have implemented plans to deal with the pandemic. The university has again lured students in with the bogus promise of open borders, but Australian universities still have no quarantine facilities or plan to deal with Covid outbreaks. We are always in he said, she said territory, with the university shrugging its shoulders and saying it’s the fault of the governments, and vice versa.

The recent last minute closure of my state’s borders has left me jobless (having quit my job to move to Australia), homeless (having given up the lease on my house) and without transportation (I sold my car and there is no public transport near my temporary accommodation). The cancellation of my scholarship also put me in debt.

I will most likely complete my studies in Australia if and when I can. However, I will never forget the lack of planning and compassion from universities and the government towards international students – and indeed students in general. I will never forget the anxiety and fear we endured because of this blatant incompetence.

Vice Chancellors and politicians have stolen international student education and in some cases even our livelihoods by allowing bad policies masked by health advice to prevail. My heart is broken.

The writer is a master’s student at an Australian university.