SYDNEY, AAP – International students will be returning to NSW by year’s end if an updated pilot plan by the state government proves a success.

The plan announced on Friday will involve students returning on chartered flights and quarantining for 14 days in retrofitted accommodation in Redfern.

The building can accommodate up to 650 quarantining students at one time but the pilot plan will only incorporate 500 students.

The plan is industry-funded, the NSW government says, and will occur in parallel to attempts to repatriate stranded Australians overseas.

“The international education sector sustains thousands of jobs across NSW and I’m proud that NSW is leading the way with the return of international students to our shores,” Deputy Premier John Barilaro said.

All students must be fully vaccinated with a TGA-recognised vaccine, meaning Chinese students may not be included in the pilot. The students will be contacted by their university on their interest to participate.

Premier Gladys Berejikilan later on Friday told reporters that students who have taken other vaccines, such as China’s Sinovac, should be re-vaccinated with TGA-approved jabs if they wished to enter Australia.

These include AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines.

“We don’t want additional risk put into our system,” the premier said.

It comes after a similar pilot plan for reintroducing international students to NSW was scuppered by the state’s Delta outbreak in June.

That plan involved 250 student arrivals per fortnight from August.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet on Friday said the NSW education sector was worth $14.6 billion in 2019 and 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.

The lack of international student arrivals amid the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to cost the NSW economy some $11 billion by late 2022.

NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee convener Barney Glover welcomed the announcement, saying it was 18 months in the making.

He said universities would be ready to conduct the pilot plan as soon as NSW hits its 70 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage milestone.

Universities Australia also supported the pilot, saying it was “carefully developed” and would bring hope and certainty to international students.

The peak body said nearly half of all international university students remain outside of Australia, and around a third of international PhD students.

“International students make a significant cultural and economic contribution to Australian life and we look forward to a time when we can safely welcome all students back,” chief executive Catriona Jackson said.