The ACCC today granted interim authorisation to New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory universities to collaborate on travel arrangements for the return of international students.
The proposed arrangements prioritise the return of students who need to complete practical or on-site components of their course to progress their studies or to graduate.
“This interim authorisation will allow universities in NSW and the ACT to start working together immediately to implement a fair and efficient system to get these international students back to Australia,” ACC Chair Rod Sims said.
The NSW Government has announced a pilot plan to enable 250 international students to come to Sydney per fortnight. The interim authorisation will allow the participating universities to agree how they will allocate spots under the NSW Government cap, based on their 2019 international student enrolments. Each university will then independently decide which overseas students are offered the opportunity to return first.
“Nothing in the ACCC’s decision impacts the Federal and State Government rules in relation to quarantine, capacity limits or funding.” Mr Sims said.
“The interim authorisation simply provides an exemption from competition law for the universities to collaborate to facilitate implementation of the NSW Government’s policy to allow international students to return. This will assist the universities to implement the pilot plan more efficiently and cost effectively.”
The universities will appoint a joint travel agent to source flights and organise travel for returning students. Students will be responsible for booking and paying for their own flights, using a platform established by the travel provider.
“Using the same travel provider will make the process simpler and easier for the universities, students and government agencies that handle international arrivals and quarantine arrangements,” Mr Sims said.
A travel provider appointed by the universities is likely to be able to source flights, including the purchase of blocks of tickets, more cheaply than if each student sought to purchase an airfare individually.
More information, including the ACCC’s Interim Authorisation Decision, is available at: UniProjects Pty Limited & Ors.
The participating universities are:
- Australian Catholic University
- Australian National University
- Charles Sturt University
- Southern Cross University
- Macquarie University
- University of Canberra
- University of Newcastle
- University of New England
- University of New South Wales
- University of Notre Dame
- The University of Sydney
- University of Technology Sydney
- Western Sydney University
- University of Wollongong.
Other universities that have campuses in NSW and/or the ACT are also able to participate in the arrangements.
The Federal Government has developed protocols that outline the steps for states and territories and education institutions to prepare for international student arrivals, including requirements for students to quarantine for 14 days, like other arrivals from overseas.
Under these protocols the NSW Government has set an initial cap of 250 student arrivals each fortnight.
ACCC authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA).
The CCA allows the ACCC to grant interim authorisation when it considers it is appropriate. This allows the parties to engage in the proposed conduct while the ACCC is considering the merits of the substantive application.
The ACCC may review a decision on interim authorisation at any time, including in response to feedback raised following interim authorisation.
Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs any likely public detriment.