September 29, 2011

 

September 2011

International Education Agency-Australia, one of the largest education agent of Australia has welcomed the Government’s response to the Knight review into the student visa program, in particular steps to remove barriers for genuine higher education students to study in Australia.

The Australian federal government commissioned the Knight Review into the student visa program in Dec 2010 to investigate ways to make Australia more competitive whilst maintaining the integrity of the migration system and the quality of its education system.

This followed a steady downturn of international students choosing to study in Australia after changes to visa and migration policy in early 2010.

In June Michael Knight handed his report to the Government and on 22 September the Government, Senator Evans, Minister for Education, and Minister Bowen, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, released the report with the statement that they were accepting all 41 of Knight’s recommendations.

A number of significant changes are outlined below.

Changes to student visa eligibility and processing:

  • That all higher education students applying to study a bachelor degree or higher at a university or a packaged course, regardless of country of origin, will be treated as a student from an AL1 country. This means a change to a declaration of proof of funds and in many countries the ability to apply via the eVisa system which should significantly reduce the time taken to secure a student visa. English language courses and other preparatory course will also be included in this streamlined process.
  • Allowing English language students to apply for a visa without first meeting minimum English language skills requirements; and
  • The policy of Pre¬Visa Assessment will be discontinued.
  • That student visas be allowed to be granted in advance of four months before the commencement of the relevant course. Where necessary visas should specify a date before which the holder cannot enter Australia.

Changes to student work rights:

  • An enhanced post study work visa regime for international university graduates, particularly withdrawing skills assessment and the requirement to work in any particular occupation.
  • In addition the term of the post study work visa will increase from 18 to 24 months for undergraduates degrees, up to three years for Masters and four years for PhD.
  • That student work entitlements be measured as 40 hours per fortnight instead of 20 hours per week

Changes to be made regarding Agents:

  • That the necessary legislative changes be made to require the name of any agent involved to be entered into the student’s data into PRISMS.
  • That DEEWR take steps to encourage providers to voluntarily enter agent data into PRISMS in the interim before the ESOS Act is changed to make this mandatory.
  • That DIAC upgrade its liaison at overseas posts with migration and education agents in relation to the student visa program, including regular meetings to keep agents abreast of any changes in rules and procedures.

Changes to visa compliance and enforcement:

  • The mandatory cancellation requirement for unsatisfactory attendance, unsatisfactory progress and working in excess of the hours allowed should be removed, giving DIAC officers the discretion to determine cancellation in particular cases on their merits.
  • DIAC should concentrate its compliance and integrity resources in relation to student visas on the highest risk areas.
  • Automatic cancellation of student visas should be abolished and replaced by a system in which information conveyed by SCVs is used as an input into a more targeted and strategic analysis of non‐compliance.

The full list of 41 recommendations has been provided below.

One of the most significant changes is that the onus on judging student visa eligibility has been passed to universities and their partners, who will need to ensure that standards are maintained otherwise the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) reserves the right to strip institutions of their ability to streamline visa processing.

Other education providers such as Vocation Education institutions have not yet been granted the ability to streamline their visa processing like the universities but the government has highlighted plans to widen this option based on a provider risk assessment.

In accepting Knight’s recommendations the Australian government has also indicated that it plans to review the current Assessment Level system and take further steps to improve the current risk management framework.

The implementation timeframe for many of these changes is not yet established but the government has committed to having most changes operational by the commencement of the second semester in 2012.

 

Recommendations

Recommendation 1

That a new element be introduced into the eligibility criteria for a student visa. That new criterion will be to assess whether the applicant is a genuine temporary entrant. This new criterion should be the first to be considered in assessing any application for a student visa.

Recommendation 2

A successful applicant must be both a genuine temporary entrant and a genuine student.

Recommendation 3 – streamlined visa processing for universities

3.1 That all students in the categories set out below, irrespective of their country of origin

– but subject to the provisions in 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 should be treated as though they are all AL1.

 

3.2 This treatment should apply to the following university student applicants:

  • Bachelor Degree;
  • 2 plus 2 (or 3 plus 1) arrangements with partner universities;
  • Masters Degree by Coursework.

3.3 The special treatment should not apply to:

  • short courses;
  • Associate Degree;
  • Graduate diploma;
  • Graduate certificate;
  • Diploma and Advanced Diploma;
  • non‐award courses (except as provided for in Recommendation 18);
  • the non‐university courses at the six universities which are dual sector (VET and university).

3.4 The benefits should also apply to courses which are explicitly packaged with an eligible university course at the time when the offer of university enrolment is made. This might include English language (ELICOS) and/or foundation or pathway courses in circumstances where non compliance by the student at any part of the package would be regarded as non‐compliance with the university enrolment.

3.5 The government should continue to require appropriate health checks, health insurance, character (predominantly criminal record/connections) and security checks.

3.6 The underlying DIAC powers in regard to every individual student application should continue to exist.

3.7 The government should also reserve the right to exclude certain high risk groups from the streamlined approach for university applicants. For example, the government might want to carefully assess all applicants from a persecuted minority group in a particular country. Applicants from such a group might have a huge incentive to apply for protection visas as soon as they reach Australia. The Australian Government may or may not wish to take such people on humanitarian grounds but that should be a separate decision and should not get mixed up with the process of granting visas for university students.

Recommendation 4 Post Study Work Rights

4.1 All graduates of an Australian university Bachelor degree, who have spent at least two academic years studying that degree in Australia, and who have complied with their visa conditions, should receive two years work rights.

4.2 All graduates of an Australian university Mast
ers by Coursework degree, who have studied that degree in Australia, and who have complied with their visa conditions, should receive two years work rights on successful completion of their course.

4.3 This should apply irrespective of the nature of the course (for example whether it be Arts or Engineering) and not be tied to working in any particular occupation.

4.4 The mechanism for taking up these work rights should be administratively very simple with the following components:

  • the university must notify that the course has been successfully completed. (This will be earlier than the formal graduation which could be many months after the course has been completed);
  • DIAC should not undertake any detailed, time consuming, assessment of the applicant;
  • the scheme must be one which can be marketed by the universities to prospective students as almost guaranteeing post study work rights.

Recommendation 5

That all Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students – visa subclass 574 ‐be treated as though they are all AL1 applicants.

Recommendation 6

That where any English language or other preparatory course is required by the Higher Degree by Research provider then the whole package still be treated as AL1.

Recommendation 7

That all Higher Degree by Research students be given unlimited work rights.

Recommendation 8

Masters by Research graduates should receive three years post‐study work rights and PhD graduates four years.

Recommendation 9

That the visa arrangements for Higher Degree by Research students be such that an extension for up to six months after submission of their thesis is available if needed during the interactive marking process.

Recommendation 10

That, provided the integrity measures relating to the revised criteria for a student visa are implemented (as set out in Recommendation 1), the threshold English language test requirements for stand alone ELICOS students be removed.

Recommendation 11

That the English language requirements for school students in AL4 be the same as those applying for AL1 through to AL3 and the associated waiver scheme abolished.

Recommendation 12

That the maximum period of time a school student visa holder can study English be 50 weeks across all ALs.

Recommendation 13

That the current restrictions on student guardians of a maximum of three months of study be maintained but unlimited part‐time study rights for ELICOS study only be allowed.

Recommendation 14

That pre‐paid homestay fees be included in financial assessments on the same basis as pre‐paid boarding fees.

Recommendation 15

That as a matter of some urgency AusAID, DIAC, DOHA and other relevant Australian government agencies develop an integrated policy in relation to the award of scholarships and how visa arrangements for awardees are to be managed. In particular they should address the situation of potential awardees who have a disability or HIV.

Recommendation 16

That PhD students entering under the subclass 576 visa have access to the same extension provisions recommended for Higher Degree by Research students in Recommendation 9, provided AusAID is prepared to fund their extended period.

Recommendation 17

That DIAC and DEEWR meet with State education authorities to work out what can be done to avoid the situation where a visa for a child dependent cannot be granted until proof of enrolment is present and state education authorities will not grant such proof until proof of visa grant is made. Any agreed remedy should apply across all student visa subclasses.

Recommendation 18

That students coming for semester or year¬long non‐award courses at an Australian university as part of their home universities degree and/or as part of an agreed student exchange between universities be given access to streamlined processing as outlined in Recommendation 3.

Recommendation 19

That DIAC undertake specific research targeted at integrity and compliance issues into student visa outcomes, including both primary and secondary applicants, to inform policy development.

Recommendation 20

That DIAC be appropriately funded to further develop research capability across the program.

Recommendation 21

That DIAC, to the extent permitted by legislation, co‐operate with its counterparts across all levels of government to facilitate information sharing, to inform evidence based decision making.

Recommendation 22

In the event that the research over the next 12 months reveals systemic abuse of dependant (secondary applicant) visas, that the government seriously consider mirroring the recent UK policy and restrict dependant visas to Masters and above courses unless the primary applicant is sponsored by a government.

Recommendation 23

Current arrangements whereby SCVs automatically become NCNs should cease. SCV information should continue to be conveyed to DIAC who should use it as an input into a more targeted and strategic analysis of non‐compliance.

Recommendation 24

Automatic cancellation of student visas should be abolished and replaced by a system in which information conveyed by SCVs is used as an input into a more targeted and strategic analysis of non‐compliance.

Recommendation 25

The mandatory cancellation requirement for unsatisfactory attendance, unsatisfactory progress and working in excess of the hours allowed should be removed, giving DIAC officers the discretion to determine cancellation in particular cases on their merits.

 

Recommendation 26

DIAC should concentrate its compliance and integrity resources in relation to student visas on the highest risk areas.

Recommendation 27

DIAC should not only respond to information generated by PRISMS but also be proactive in detecting the sorts of breaches (for example sham marriages and exceeding permissible work hours) which are not reported in PRISMS.

Recommendation 28

That student work entitlements be measured as 40 hours per fortnight instead of 20 hours per week

Recommendation 29

That the necessary legislative changes be made to require the name of any agent involved to be entered into the student’s data into PRISMS.

Recommendation 30

That DEEWR take steps to encourage providers to voluntarily enter agent data into PRISMS in the interim before the ESOS Act is changed to make this mandatory.

Recommendation 31

That DEEWR and DIAC establish a single student identifier to track international students through their studies in Australia.

Recommendation 32

That DIAC undertake a review of the AL framework, with a mind to either abolishing the system entirely or modifying the framework to make it relevant to current and future challenges facing the student visa program. This review should be managed by DIAC but should include reference to an external panel or reference group.

Recommendation 33

That DIAC upgrade its liaison at overseas posts with migration and education agents in relation to the student visa program, including regular meetings to keep agents abreast of any changes in rules and procedures.

Recommendation 34

That Austrade be asked to prepare a more detailed outlook document that provides effective business planning intelligence demonstrating the opportunities, for offshore provision of vo
cational education.

Recommendation 35

That the highest quality Australian VET providers including TAFEs, be encouraged to explore offshore market opportunities.

Recommendation 36

That the Australian Government, through programs such as the Export Market Development Grants Scheme and other forms of assistance, support high quality Australian vocational education providers in expanding their offshore training services.

Recommendation 37

That DIAC constitute an Education Visa Advisory Group as a primary means of regular two way communication between stakeholders in the international education sector and DIAC.

Recommendation 38

That the policy regarding Pre‐Visa Assessment (PVA) be discontinued.

Recommendation 39

That student visas be allowed to be granted in advance of four months before the commencement of the relevant course. Where necessary visas should specify a date before which the holder cannot enter Australia.

Recommendation 40

That DIAC regularly reviews the current living cost amount, and based on the CPI or other measure amend the amount, as required.

Recommendation 41

That DIAC review the exclusion criteria and policy which relate to student visa non‐compliance.

 

September 28, 2011

 

 

OVERSEAS AID: Visa rules and red tape is being eased to help more foreign students come to Australian universities.

AUSTRALIAN universities will be more attractive to overseas students under new visa rules to be adopted in time for the second semester of 2012, the government says.

The federal government announced on Thursday it will streamline visa processing for students enrolling in Australian universities.

Financial requirements for student visas will be eased, so applicants will need about $36,000 less in their bank account than they do now.

And new post-study work visas will allow students to remain in Australia for two to four years after their course ends, depending on their level of qualification.

But the student visa criteria will be tightened slightly so applicants will have to prove they are genuine students and genuine about returning home.

The changes follow a review of the student visa program led by former NSW government minister Michael Knight and the government has accepted all 41 of his recommendations.

“It’s not enough to be genuine about your studies and have no intention of going home, nor is it enough to be genuine about going home but not serious about your studies,” Mr Knight said.

Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans said the changes would help Australian universities be more competitive in the international market.

“They have articulated for a long time that the visa processes are a barrier to attracting students in an increasingly competitive environment,” he told reporters.

Contrary to perceptions, international student numbers across the education sector had continued to grow in the past year, though providers expected 2012 to be tough.

That was partly because of the old visa system and factors such as the high Australian dollar.

But Senator Evans said the sector’s previous growth rate was unsustainable and could not continue.

“I think we had some of those problems with student welfare because the system had just grown too quickly,” he said.

“This will help put this sector on a very good footing to continue to grow.”

Australian institutions could now compete on the basis of their education offerings and not be hindered by any visa requirements.

Mr Knight said it was important to strike a balance between the economic benefits brought by international students and protecting the integrity of migration controls.

From: AAP September 23, 2011 12:00AM

September 28, 2011
September 28, 2011

 

UNIVERSITIES will be allowed to entice foreign students with quick visa approvals and the right to two years of work after graduation as part of a reform package to stem further losses of overseas student income.

 

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans said yesterday they would act on a remarkably frank report on Australia’s education export industry by former NSW politician Michael Knight.

 

By mid next year, foreign students keen on an Australian university degree will have access to a new, fast-track visa system.

 

Students from supposedly high-risk countries, such as China, no longer will have to show $75,000-plus in a bank account to prove they can cover fees and living costs.

 

Regardless of where they are from, would-be students will simply have to make a declaration they can support themselves.

 

Onerous financial requirements have been bitterly criticised as an over-reaction to past failings when migration was the motor of education, especially in private colleges.

 

Under yesterday’s Knight reforms, which single out universities for special treatment, foreign graduates emerging with a bachelor’s degree will be entitled to two years of work with no restriction on the type of job.

 

But if they want to stay for good they still have to satisfy stricter rules for skilled migration, which are much less generous to on-shore foreign students with low value skills.

 

University leaders yesterday welcomed the liferaft thrown them by the government.

 

“The reforms announced are more positive than anyone we spoke to expected [and] they come when competitors are kicking own goals _ riots in the UK and US funding cuts,” said University of NSW vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer.

 

“We expect a moderate lift in 2012 and a significant lift in 2013.”

 

In New Delhi yesterday, Professor Hilmer said education agents had told him that a streamlined student visa system was “the key to restoring our competitive position”.

 

Violence against students and tighter rules for skilled migration drove Indian students away while the US and Canada were making inroads on the China market.

 

In 2010-11, Australia’s education export earnings fell by almost 10 per cent from their $18 billion peak. Sharp declines in numbers at English language colleges and tertiary preparation courses suggest that universities are heading into tough trading conditions next year.

 

The education export industry complains of “a perfect storm” _ meaning rapid and unsettling changes in visa rules and skilled migration policy, the strong dollar and more competition for students overseas, and lingering reputational damage done by attacks on Indian students.

 

Under the Knight reforms, broadly adopted by the government, students wanting to study for a bachelor’s or higher qualification at university will find it easier and quicker to get a visa, regardless what country they are from.

 

“Unfortunately the worst perceptions about visa processing times are in Australia’s biggest market, China,” Mr Knight said.

 

From next autumn, would-be university students would benefit from an end to the requirement that they show large amounts of money upfront as evidence of capacity to pay.

 

Also promised next year is a comprehensive review of the so-called risk assessment levels that immigration officials use to vet would-be students. This system makes it harder for students from China and India, for example, to get visas.

 

Mr Knight recommended a new work rights regime for foreign students who graduate from an Australian university.

 

He said this had to be “administratively very simple”.

 

“The scheme must be one which can be marketed by the universities to prospective students as almost guaranteeing post-study work rights,” he said.

 

Glenn Withers, chief executive of Universities Australia, said the work entitlement was “one of the biggest breakthroughs”.

 

“This [work right] is as good or better than the Canadian or the US provisions,” he said.

 

But Monash University researcher Bob Birrell said the labour market implications had not been thought through.

 

Locals already were competing with thousands of former overseas students who were on bridging visas following a reform of the skilled migration rules, he said.

 

Stephen Connelly, from the International Education Association Australia, welcomed the Knight reforms.

 

He praised the extension of the new streamlined visa rules to packages including university study with foundation programs or English language courses.

 

“Australia has world’s best practice in pathways and preparatory programs for university studies, and this aspect of the recommendations will help cement our competitive advantage in this area,” Mr Connelly said.

 

He urged rapid implementation of the reform package to try to reverse the downward trend in on-shore student numbers.

 

Mr Knight justified special measures to boost overseas student recruitment by universities, rather than by TAFEs or private colleges, on the basis that universities were of “universally high” quality.

 

He also cited the “huge financial stake” of taxpayers in a university sector that had become heavily dependent on fees paid by foreign students.

 

He expressed surprise at the degree of dependence, pointing out that in 2009, about 25 per cent of students at the elite group of eight universities were internationals.

 

Andrew Norton, higher education expert at the Grattan Institute, was troubled by the favouritism shown to universities.

 

“My concern is that this is a big blow to the private higher education sector and the TAFES … and that this will distort the market further,” he said.

 

He said public universities already enjoyed a privileged position in the demand-driven system starting next year.

 

Adrian McComb, from the Council of Private Higher Education, said the “university centric nature” of the Knight report was disappointing.

 

He said this ran counter to the unified system of regulation for higher education, public and private, under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.

 

Mr Knight said universities were “not perfect”.

 

He put universities on notice that they would be held accountable for systematic migration abuses by their students or for lower standards.

 

“The financial dependence which universities now have on the fees from international students could create pressure to soften entry standards and assessment standards,” he said.

 

He said his freeing up of student visas would be “quite dangerous” unless immigration officers put new effort into checking that applicants were genuine temporary visitors as well as genuine students.

 

However, Dr Birrell said the guidelines for this new student visa test were “so opaque that it’s almost impossible to apply. I cannot see how [an immigration] officer could possibly implement them.”

 

BY: BERNARD LANE From: The Australian September 23, 2011 12:00AM

September 8, 2011

resume mistakesGiven that 45 percent of human resources managers say they spend less than a minute, on average, on each job application they see, it’s understandable that some people might go overboard in trying to bring some individuality to their work history. But would you list your unique ability to do the moonwalk in the “special skills” section of your resume?
That’s actually not the wackiest resume mistake CareerBuilder uncovered in a survey of 2,600 employers nationwide, who were asked to recall the most unusual resumes they’d ever seen. It seems safe to assume none of these people were hired, but since CareerBuilder didn’t specifically ask, I guess there’s an outside shot that one of these tactics actually worked. (Although probably not the one about being arrested for assaulting a former boss.)
Here are the 15 oddest:

  1. Candidate said the more he was paid, the harder he worked
  2. Candidate said he had been fired from past positions, but still included those managers as references
  3. Candidate said getting an interview was important because he wanted an opportunity to show off his new tie
  4. Candidate listed her dog as a reference
  5. Candidate listed-yes, the moonwalk-as a special skill
  6. A husband and wife team looking to job share submitted a poem they had co-written
  7. Candidate listed ‘versatile toes’ as a selling point
  8. Candidate wrote that he would be “a good asset to the company” but somehow omitted the last two letters in “asset.”
  9. Candidate’s email address contained the phrase “shakinmybootie”
  10. Candidate mentioned that he had survived a bite from a deadly aquatic animal
  11. Candidate used first name only
  12. Candidate asked, “Would you pass up the opportunity to hire someone like this? I think not.”
  13. Candidate insisted that he be paid for the time he spent interviewing with the company
  14. Candidate shipped a lemon with resume, stating, “I am not a lemon.”
  15. Candidate included on his resume the fact that he had been arrested for assaulting his previous boss.

Lessons Learned
Can’t you be even a little imaginative in putting together your resume? No, says CareerBuilder’s vice president of human resources, Rosemary Haefner. “Creativity and personal touches may seem tempting to some job seekers, but many times, it’s a disqualifying distraction.”
Instead, Haefner suggests job seekers stick with the basics:

  • Stay relevant. Customize your resume to each individual position, highlighting the experience that makes you best-suited to that particular post.
  • Stay readable. If there’s no white space on your resume, reformat it to make it easier on the eyes. A wall of unbroken gray text is off-putting–especially if it’s the fiftieth resume someone’s seen that day.
  • Write a compelling professional summary. Ditch the ‘Objective’ line in favor of a two-sentence description of your relevant experience. This is the ‘hook’ that can convince a recruiter, HR pro, or hiring manager to spend a little more time on your application.
  • Proofread. It’s too easy for hiring managers to disqualify you based on a typo-if you don’t care about making sure your resume is perfect, what does that say about your level of conscientiousness? Proofread it yourself, and before sending it out, ask a few friends to proofread your resume for you.

What are your best tips for getting the attention of hiring managers? And which attention-getting ploys are sure to fail?
Source: Kimberly Weisul is a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant. Follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/weisul

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