In early December, the Australian government announced their plans on reopening international travel routes for eligible student visa holders under the NSW pilot programme.
Soon after the announcement, esteemed universities like the University of New South Wales (UNSW), University of Canberra, and Australian National University started reopening doors for international students.
Flights started visiting the international airports after Dec 15, 2021, and students were welcomed after a long pause in physical classrooms.
As more institutions aim to welcome international students to their doorstep, many experts firmly believe that different structural factors affect students' ability to travel.
According to the survey, a divided international student community is observed, and experts believe it could have long-term impacts on the recovery of the global education sector.
Lehmann and Balakrishnan explained that the reopening of borders does not remove the inequalities experienced by international students during the pandemic.
"Many students are facing further structural barriers to their mobility that are unevenly distributed across the broader student community," they wrote.
The report also showcases a presence of a four-tiered hierarchy of mobility among international students based on their ease of movement in and out of Australia.
Students are now either locked out, locked in, left out, or the lucky ones.
Students in their last year studying courses that require lab study/practicals as a compulsory component have been given preference for entry into Australia.
In contrast, international students who belong to countries or are stranded in countries where Russia's Sputnik V vaccine has been administered do not qualify for entry into Australia.
The same is the case with students who have taken some of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines which do not meet the requirements.
Regulatory requirements such as these have "arbitrarily created a barrier to their re-entering Australia" in addition to increasing the disparity among international students, point out Lehmann and Balakrishnan.
Students have had to deal with different realities in each of the four categories of international students that they posit emerged during this period.
While some students have been able to come in under the NSW pilot plan, the wait and the uncertainty continue for the majority.