October 30, 2012

IEAA glad to announce that after lobbying number of years, Australian NSW Government agreed to give student travel discounts for International Students.  The NSW Government has announced public transport fare discounts for international students as part of ongoing efforts to promote the State as a world-class location for international education.

 

Premier Barry O’Farrell made the announcement in India, where he is currently promoting NSW’s education credentials as part of a trade mission, while Acting Premier and Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Stoner was joined at the University of Sydney by Parliamentary Secretary for Tertiary Education and Skills Gabrielle Upton and Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Garton.

“International education is the State’s second biggest industry in terms of exports – worth $6 billion,” Mr O’Farrell said. “We have world-class universities, vocational institutions and research organisations, but we need to do more to attract international students seeking high quality education, cultural and employment experience. “The travel concessions announced today will increase the attraction of NSW as an ideal location for further education and provide better access to safe and affordable public transport options for overseas students.”

Mr Stoner said the changes mean international students will soon have access to public transport travel discounts of up to 35 per cent. “Enhancing NSW’s reputation as a highly regarded location for international education and research will be critical to our efforts to position the NSW economy for growth in the next decade,” Mr Stoner said.

“The new travel concessions are a direct response to a recommendation from the NSW Government’s International Education and Research Taskforce which released its final report today.”

Mr Stoner said the Taskforce’s final report outlines 21 specific recommendations for Government and Industry to help position NSW as a global leader in international education by 2021. “We have already begun acting on a number of matters highlighted by the Taskforce, with the NSW Strategy for Business Migration & Attracting International Students released earlier this year calling for the extension of streamlined visa processing and post study work rights for a broader pool of overseas students based in NSW,” Mr Stoner said. “Our full response to the Taskforce’s final report will be released soon, but our announcement today is a first step towards making NSW a more attractive international education destination.

“International students will have access to potential discounts of up to 35 per cent on MyMulti passes offering periodic unlimited travel on buses, trains, light rail and ferries in Greater Sydney, the Hunter and the Illawarra. “The discounts allow for potential savings of more than $800 on an annual MyMulti3 pass and more than $450 on an annual MyMulti2. Overseas students can also save more than $200 on a MyMulti3 90 day pass and $133 on a MyMulti2 90 day pass. “The savings can apply to all travel, not simply travel to and from students’ place of study, so this provides a fantastic opportunity for students to get out and explore Sydney and NSW.”

Ms Upton said the Taskforce’s final report identified a range of challenges and opportunities facing the NSW international education sector. “While the market for international students is increasingly competitive, opportunities for growth are enormous with global demand for international higher education forecast to grow from 2.2 million in 2005 to 3.7 million in 2025. China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia are predicted to account for over 60 per cent of this growth,” Ms Upton said.

“The final report of the NSW Government’s International Education and Research Taskforce outlines a range of measures Government and Industry can take to position NSW as a significant global player and Australia’s leading State for international education and research. “The report calls for the NSW Government to ramp up its efforts to lobby for Federal level improvements to the quality of teaching, courses and research. “The quality of the total student experience is also identified as a key target for improvement, with Government asked to consider issues including affordable accommodation and transport, access to part time employment, industry placements while studying, and employment on completion of study.

“The Taskforce also recommends creation of a new agency to provide a one-stop-shop for information for international students and to drive implementation of a range of other recommendations on issues including quality, migration, post study work rights and levels of research funding.”

For more information, please read the attached media release.

March 9, 2012

 

THE Federal Government is likely to shift its focus for university funding to completions rather than enrolments in its response to a base funding review.

Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans says the sector already knows he wants to make this shift.

He believes it will help keep quality high in the new era of demand-driven government funding for undergraduate places that began this year.

The Group of Eight, which represents Australia’s eight top research universities, has released a policy paper that says offering more places meant more students who were not well academically prepared would enter higher education.

There was clear evidence that students with lower entrance scores were more likely to drop out of university courses before finishing.

Senator Evans said the notion that opening up access would result in lower quality university education was insulting to universities and insulting to students.

But he agreed there would need to be more support for those students.

“We will have to put greater emphasis on transitional support for some of those students to focus on teaching and learning,” he said at a Universities Australia conference in Canberra on Wednesday.

“I’m looking to refocus funding on completions rather than just commencement to make sure the signals to the sector are strong that the purpose of these reforms is to produce graduates not to produce enrolments.

“If we take the right policy measures to support students we’ll get strong completion rates and we’ll get people who never otherwise would have had the chance going to university.”

The tight fiscal environment prevented him from promising more money for preparatory or transition courses.

But he said many universities already were doing good work in that area and he promised to give it priority in the coming year.

“We can grow and access equity without losing a strong focus on excellence,” Senator Evans said.

“These are not contradictory or mutually-exclusive goals.”

The Government released the independent base funding review in December. It will respond in the next couple of months.

Source:  AAP March 07, 2012

October 3, 2011

 

Australia’s 39 universities are preparing for a brand new day in 2012: not only will government quotas on the number of local students they enrol be lifted, but they will also be able to recruit as many foreigners as they wish as a result of a new fast-track visa system.

In an unexpectedly generous move that surprised even sceptical vice-chancellors, the federal government decided to lift most restrictions on the issuing of student visas to overseas students applying for a university place, opening the way for a likely flood of new applications from China, India, Pakistan and other Asian countries.

Universities that agree to meet certain requirements regarding the students they admit will also have access to a new streamlined system that will speed up visa processing.

The government’s imposition of tighter visa rules two years ago was a reaction to dodgy college operators using vocational education courses as a front for their clients to obtain permanent residency visas. As tens of thousands of students enrolled in cooking and hairdressing courses in the hope of staying on after completion, a debate began to rage about Australia allowing relatively unskilled migrants with poor English into the country.

The stricter visa rules also applied to applicants seeking university places while, at the same time, the Australian dollar began rising sharply against the US dollar. These changes made obtaining a visa to study here harder and more expensive than in Canada or the US; and as the number of full-fee international students fell sharply, universities suddenly found a significant source of non-government income drying up.

In 2009, the estimated economic benefit to Australia of having nearly 500,000 fee-paying foreign students enrolled in schools, colleges and universities was AUD18 billion (US$18 billion); two years later this had fallen by AUD2 billion.

As vice-chancellor protests became louder, the government appointed a former New South Wales Labor government minister, Michael Knight, to review the situation.

In a 150-page report just released, Knight proposed a series of changes he claimed would boost the competitiveness of Australian universities in the global student marketplace. Although his 41 recommendations apply mostly to universities, the changes effectively give vice-chancellors almost total freedom to recruit as many foreign students as they want.

To the surprise of every higher education lobby group, the government accepted all the recommendations and promised to implement them before the start of second semester next year.

Among the changes expected to improve the attractiveness of Australian higher education is the scrapping of a rule requiring foreign students to prove they have enough money saved to allow them to study in the country for two years.

A student from China, by far Australia’s biggest source of international students, at present must have access to at least AUD100,000 to obtain a visa. From mid-2012, however, students will only need to declare they can afford to pay tuition and living costs. As well, those who graduate with at least a bachelor degree from a university will be able to stay on and work for up to four years and will not be tied to any particular occupation.

“All applicants will still be subject to basic requirements such as having health insurance and not being a security or health risk. And the Department of Immigration will reserve the right to look separately at applications from any group that poses a particular concern,” Knight says in his report.

“However, beyond those basic requirements, [the Department] will effectively take the university’s word that the student is suitable. Therefore universities can be confident their students will have their applications processed quickly.”

But Knight warns that “these substantial benefits” come with significant obligations: universities will be accountable for the visa outcomes of their students. If these outcomes are consistently poor, the university will be removed from the streamlined processing arrangements and prospective students will be processed under the existing rules.

Despite universities being subject to government “checks and balances and integrity measures” before gaining access to the new streamlined visa procedures, critics say the changes will open the doors to a new wave of foreign student workers who, after graduating, will compete with Australians for jobs and add to the thousands already seeking to stay on a permanent residents.

Monash University social scientist and demographer Dr Bob Birrell said past experience showed that thousands of students from poorer families who could not meet the costs of fees and living expenses were now likely to apply for university. Birrell, founder of Monash’s Centre for Population and Urban Research, said the result would be a significant influx of students seeking through a university education to gain access to the Australian labour market.

“We have had repeated examples of this in the past, starting with the English language college debacle of the late 1980s and more recently the vocational college debacle over cooks and hairdressers,” he said. “I’m amazed the Immigration Department has gone along with this because they know what happened in the past.”

Another critic, Peter Holden, said Knight’s decision to confine the changes to universities was against federal government policy, which wanted an integrated tertiary sector with a single regulatory body. “His old-school approach reinforces outdated stereotypes and elitist views of post-secondary education,” Holden said.

“Knight’s reasoning is that if things go off the rails it will be easier for the Department of Immigration to rein in universities because there are only 39 of them. This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of high quality and low risk. As Knight admits, universities are not perfect.”

Holden is director of international engagement for TAFE Directors Australia, the heads of the country’s public technical and further education colleges. Writing in The Australian newspaper’s higher education section, he said one in five students in Australia’s universities was from overseas – among the highest ratios in the world.

“For the whole public vocational education sector, including all qualification levels, the ratio is less than one in 27. In terms of stability, TAFE institutes are equally well-managed with high levels of accountability and transparency.

“The Knight review perpetuates the flawed impression the problem lies within the vocational education and training sector, as though it can be treated as one amorphous whole.”

Source: Geoff Maslen / 02 October 2011 / Issue: 191  /university world news