International students stuck overseas could be able to return to Canberra under a plan put forward by the NSW government.
Canberra universities welcomed the plan, which would allow 250 international students to come to Sydney each fortnight from mid-year.
They will spend their quarantine period in purpose-built student accommodation.
The first international students would touch down within eight weeks under the plan - around the time semester two begins for most NSW universities.
The arrival of these students will be in addition to the 3000 returning Australians arriving in Sydney each week amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan, which has been endorsed by NSW Health, NSW Police and all NSW universities, has been submitted to the federal government for review.
A spokeswoman for the Australian National University said its overseas students might be able to join the program after the first phase was complete.
"We welcome the NSW government's announcement today about their plan for the safe return of international students," the spokeswoman said.
"ANU is a partner in this plan and helped develop it.
"If the federal government approves the NSW plan, we hope a small number of our students will be able to participate in the program after its initial phase has been completed successfully. We will contact eligible students in due course, if and when places are available for them."
The ANU has about 3000 international students studying offshore in semester one this year from a total of 7044 international enrolments.
A University of Canberra spokeswoman said the university was also a partner in the NSW plan and hoped to see a small number of their students participate.
Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Zlatko Skrbis said the proposal was a pleasing development.
"Our international students contribute so much to the vibrancy and global diversity of our university community, and we look forward to continuing to work on their safe return to our four campuses across NSW and the ACT," he said.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the students would be subject to the same NSW Police-overseen quarantine standards as returning Australians in hotels.
Under the plan, NSW Health will triage arriving students and direct them to quarantine at approved student accommodation sites. This will occur regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status.
One such site has already been chosen, with more to come.The students will initially arrive on charter flights, with Mr Perrottet listing Thailand, Nepal, South Korea and China as departure points.
The entire pilot program will be university and student-funded.
An ACT government spokesman said they hoped the NSW plan would establish a precedent for international student returns.
"The best way to repatriating students directly into the ACT is for the universities to partner with approved COVID-safe quarantine facilities in Canberra that meet the minimum quarantine facility standards approved by national cabinet," the spokesman said.
Mr Perrottet said the overall impact of closed international borders for NSW was as high as $1.5 billion per month, curtailing economic growth.
The lack of international student arrivals amid the pandemic has cost NSW some $5 billion in total, potentially reaching $11 billion by late 2022.
In the ACT, international education became the territory's first billion-dollar export industry before the pandemic, with education visitors contributing to 60 per cent of international visitor expenditure.
ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt previously raised concerns that international students would opt to study in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada because of the border restrictions in Australia.
The ACT government planned its own pilot program to return overseas students but it was scuttled by COVID-19 outbreaks mid-last year.
The NSW Vice-Chancellors' Committee's Barney Glover also lauded the role played by the government, saying it had worked hand in glove with the tertiary sector.
He said the state's universities would prioritise students in disciplines including medicine, science, engineering, teaching, nursing and midwifery, as well as those students undertaking higher degree research.
"International students introduce different cultural and community perspectives and are important members of our academic community," Professor Glover, the committee convener, said in a statement.
"They also create tens of thousands of jobs in sectors like tourism, retail and hospitality that are vitally important to our local communities and will help us accelerate out of the COVID-19 induced recession."
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the peak body had been calling for a national plan for the safe return of students from low-risk nations for some time.
- with AAP
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: