Australia’s elite universities have proposed “secure corridor” rules for the return of international students.

The Group of Eight universities have put forth a plan that would see international student arrivals recommence from countries deemed safe. However, they would be subjected to self-funded quarantine requirements.

What has been described as a “secure corridor” framework could see students to return en masse, but still undergoing strict health checks. The plan would require the co-operation of government agencies and the aviation industry.

The first step would be a “rigorous protocol for selecting eligible source countries”; those that have contained the spread of COVID-19.

Students would require pre-travel isolation and health checks in their home countries, as well as passage to Australia on a “trusted Australian carrier”, requiring co-operation with airlines to facilitate flights and deal with pricing.

Students would then be placed in quarantine accommodation, which they would pay for themselves. Universities would run airport pick-ups and escort students to the accommodation.

“International students are keen to return to Australia to either continue or commence their tertiary studies,” the strategy states.

“Universities can and are committed to providing a fully facilitated safe-return process with the support of the government.”

Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson says universities need to plan for the revival of the international student sector.

“Whilst we are optimistic that this framework might assist governments to look at a possible small scale re-entry of our international students in some states in the next three to four months, realistically we would expect to see the bulk of our students back for semester 1, 2021,” Ms Thomson said.

About 20 per cent of the international enrolments in Australia have been stranded offshore by COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.

Universities faces losses of up to $4.6 billion in the next six months.