COVID-19 has thrown many people’s plans into a state of uncertainty. For students who were interested in participating in ANU’s Global Programs their plans have been put on hold while the world continues to weather the pandemic. With no word on when international travel will open to the public again, Global Programs is adapting processes to allow students to continue their degrees at ANU. 

On March 27, ANU released advice for students who were affected by Semester 1 2020 exchange cancellation. They advised, in line with government travel advice, that all students and staff overseas had to return as soon as possible, and that students could apply for financial support from ANU for reasonable travel expenses.

ANU provided these students with a number of options as to how to proceed: they could enrol in courses at ANU instead, continue studying remotely with their host university or do a combination of the two. Most students chose the first option and re-enrolled at ANU. Those who chose to undertake remote study with their host institutions have been provided with ongoing support from ANU, who have also advocated for flexibility from host universities where possible, given time zone differences. While it is ultimately up to the host university to provide this flexibility and support, an ANU spokesperson said that it was “really wonderful to see so many ANU partner institutions offer support to students in this situation”.

Semester 2 exchanges this year will not go ahead due to Australian travel restrictions. While it is still too early to decide whether exchanges will proceed for Semester 1 2021, an ANU spokesperson said their “priority is always the safety of our students, and we hope that the situation will be safe enough for many exchange programs to succeed”. Global Programs is running applications for Semester 1 next year, intending that exchanges will go ahead in many cases. However, in most cases this is out of the university’s control, as it is dependent on the Government travel advice and the situation in many other countries.

The uncertainty surrounding future Global Programs is particularly important for students undertaking courses and programs with a requirement for a year abroad. An ANU spokesperson clarified that the university is “looking closely at what COVID-19 and ongoing travel restrictions mean for students enrolled in programs that incorporate a year of study overseas.” Whether students undertaking these courses and programs will be able to complete their year abroad is uncertain at the moment. ANU is investigating a range of alternatives for these students, which could include delaying overseas study.

These alternatives will be specific to students and their circumstances. For example, those completing the ‘Year in Asia’ program who do not have space in their degree will have to transfer out of the program. Students who still have room in their degree are working with Global Programs and their relevant College to plan to complete their overseas study later than originally planned.

For those who are hoping to go on exchange in the future, the university is “actively working with their partner institutions to confirm additional places for 2021 and 2022”, to help make up for the semesters where students are missing out. However, exchange works on the basis of reciprocity: whether ANU is able to secure additional spots for exchange depends on the balance of ingoing and outgoing students and the capacity of host institutions and ANU to support larger numbers of exchange students.