International students will be able to return to the University of Newcastle from mid year under a state government pilot plan involving a quarantine period in purpose-built accommodation.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said on Thursday that 250 international students would be able to come to Sydney each fortnight from mid-year.
About eight students will return to Newcastle in the first instance.
They will spend their quarantine period in purpose-built student accommodation.
The University of Newcastle has more than 6300 international students.
Vice-Chancellor Alex Zelinsky told staff that the university had been working collaboratively on the pilot initiative for more than 12 months.
"I would like to acknowledge the work of the government and university colleagues who have helped us get to this stage," he said.
"Our international students are a much-valued part of our community and we look forward to welcoming them back to our campuses in due course."
Under the plan, the first international students would touch down within eight weeks - 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, police and universities, has been submitted to the federal government for review.
The state's education sector was worth $14.6 billion in 2019 and directly supported more than 95,000 local jobs.
More than 250,000 international students typically study in NSW each year and future students could choose other destinations such as the United States, United Kingdom or Canada if NSW remains closed.
He said those countries were now aggressively courting foreign students.
"If we don't act fast, students will turn to other overseas destinations and it could take the sector decades to recover," Mr Perrottet said.
Mr Perrottet said the students would be subject to the same NSW Police-overseen quarantine standards as returning Australians in hotels.
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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.
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