The Australian National University has called on the federal and ACT governments to keep working together on a solution to bring more students home, and has offered space at its campus to quarantine returned Australian travellers.
The top-tier university said on Thursday it was concerned there was still no solution to bring students back to Australia 18 months after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The longer we remain out of reach for our students, the harder the path to recovery will be," the university said in a statement.
"There are multiple ways of bringing our students home safely. Our plan has always been for our returning students to be over and above the numbers of returning Australians.
The statement came after the ACT government on Wednesday confirmed it would no longer take repatriation flights into the territory, finding the process too expensive.
The ANU has offered expertise and facilities to assist with the necessary quarantine arrangements for returned travellers, including offering space to Australians who are not students.
The university said it would cover the quarantine costs of returned students, but general travellers quarantined on the campus would need to pay.
"Our plan has always been for our returning students to be over and above the numbers of returning Australians," the university said.
About 3000 of the university's students are still overseas, with enrolment numbers significantly down on pre-pandemic levels.
"My promise to our students is that we will keep working with the federal and ACT governments to bring you back to Canberra and make our community whole as soon as possible," the university's vice-chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt, said.
An ACT government spokeswoman said the government had been working with Canberra's universities for months to look at bringing international students to Canberra, but recent outbreaks showed international flights still posed the most significant risk of COVID-19 to the community.
"The universities could also look at entering into their own agreement with a hotel to facilitate the return of students - but all these arrangements would need to be approved by the Chief Health Officer and adhere to the hotel quarantine requirements approved by national cabinet," the spokeswoman said.
"Bringing students backs will also require the Universities to liaise with Border Force and DFAT on fight arrangements."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November ruled out the early return of overseas students, saying the return of Australian citizens needed to be prioritised.
"The challenges we have in getting Australians home means the ability to move and take international students back at this time through quarantine arrangements does not present itself," Mr Morrison said.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith on Wednesday said the territory lacked the infrastructure to make hosting repatriation flights cost-effective.
"With Melbourne reopening [to returned travellers], a lot more people can be accommodated through the major international airports than our repatriation flight facility," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"It really is a very significant logistical exercise, it's quite expensive because we just don't have those economies of scale in doing that work.
"And so from a cost-benefit perspective, it just seemed more sensible to pay our share of ACT residents coming in through other capital cities."
The ACT government understands there are about 500 ACT residents still stuck overseas, and is currently working to confirm reimbursement arrangements with other states and territories who would host returned travellers.
The ACT had taken five repatriation flights, with passengers forced into quarantine at the Pacific Suites hotel on Northbourne Avenue.
Ms Stephen-Smith had previously said the territory would welcome more repatriation flights in 2021.
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