November 19, 2011

 

NSW AND Victoria will come under renewed pressure to provide transport concessions to international students following an upgrade to the Study in Australia portal next year.

The federal government said all states and territories would be required to upload information on their services onto the Austrade-managed portal, “to ensure students make informed decisions about where to study”.

“International students will be able to search and compare government services on the Study in Australia portal, including comparative information on transport concessions available to international students, in 2012.”

The updates are required under last year’s International Students Strategy for Australia, the government said.

NSW and Victoria don’t currently provide concessions to the bulk of their international students, unlike the other states and territories.

The federal government said it supported last month’s agreement by state and territory community and disability services ministers to consider reciprocal recognition of student concessions.

It said it had also exerted pressure on NSW and Victoria over the issue in 2008 and again last month.

“The government will continue to make representations to NSW and Victoria on this matter,” it said, in a belated response to a Senate references committee inquiry into international student welfare.

The report by the Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee issued 16 recommendations, including two on public transport.

There were also five recommendations on information for international students, three on work rights, three on regulation and one each on agents, visa processing and medical internships.

The government said it supported three quarters of the recommendations and had already begun work to address them, implementing some in full. But it’s had plenty of time to do so, given that the report was released in November 2009.

It cited the Study in Australia portal in its response to six of the recommendations.

But the portal won’t fully meet the expectations of the committee, which said some information should be available in hard copy form and provided prior to students’ arrival in Australia.

 

Source: Portal pressure on concessions

BY: JOHN ROSS From: The Australian November 19, 2011

November 9, 2011

Australia  will be able to accept test scores from the alternative English language tests for Student visa applications for all countries lodged on or after 5 November 2011. In addition to IELTS test, the  acceptable alternative tests are:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL),
  • The Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic and
  • Academic and Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) from Cambridge ESOL for Student visa purposes.

 

All arrangements relating to IELTS test scores remain unchanged.  The TOEFL iBT, Pearson and Cambridge tests are simply alternatives to the IELTS test for Student visa purposes.  Implementing these alternative tests means Student visa applicants who are required to provide evidence of their English language proficiency will be able to choose from a wider range of English language tests providers.

Paper and eVisa application forms for Student visa applications have been updated to allow you to provide details about which English language test you take, and the results you received.

You must also provide the department with evidence of the test score you received.  The type of evidence you provide will depend on which English language test you take.  Your score will be verified by the department with the test provider.

Applicant may be required to provide additional information to allow the department to verify your English language test score with the test provider.  Please refer to each English language test provider’s website to confirm whether you will also be provided with a unique identifying code.  If you are provided with this code, you will need to provide it to the department.  To avoid delays in processing your application, you should provide the department with evidence of your test score as soon as possible.

The alternative English language tests will apply to Student visa applications:

  • lodged but not decided by 5 November 2011
  • lodged on or after 5 November 2011.

The Migration Regulations 1994 state that an English language proficiency test score is valid for two years from the date of the test.  If an applicant takes an English language proficiency test from one of the alternative providers before 5 November 2011 and achieves the required score, then they will be able to meet the English language requirement for their Student visa application.

Test score equivalencies for the alternative tests are provided below:

 

IELTS SCORE Band

4.0

4.5

5.0

5.5

6.0

6.5

7.0

7.5

8.0

8.5

9.0

Test of English as a Foreign Language internet based Test  (TOEFL iBT)

31

32

35

46

60

79

94

102

110

115

118

 

PTE Academic

29

30

36

42

50

58

65

73

79

83

86

Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) from Cambridge ESOL test scores

32

36

41

47

52

58

67

74

80

87

93

 

The alternative English language tests only apply to Student visa applications at this stage.  The department will be reviewing the alternative tests for use with other visa program after 12 months of operation.

November 3, 2011
November 3, 2011

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, today announced businesses using the subclass 457 visa program can now gain access to priority processing and approval for six years under a new accreditation scheme.

‘This new scheme recognises that many Australian businesses have a long history of dealing with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and an excellent record of compliance with workplace and migration laws,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘From 7 November, these businesses will be able to seek accreditation that qualifies them for sponsorship approval of six years rather than the current three, as well as ensuring faster processing times for all future subclass 457 nominations and visa applications.’

Businesses will need to meet certain additional benchmarks to qualify for accredited status, including being an active 457 visa sponsor for the past three years and a commitment to ensuring at least 75 per cent of their domestic workforce is Australian.

‘While employers should first look to Australians to fill skill vacancies, the subclass 457 visa provides a fast and flexible process for the entry of overseas workers where they are needed to fill skill vacancies,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘The new accreditation scheme was developed in consultation with the Skilled Migration Consultative Panel, which includes representatives from major employer groups, unions and state governments.’

The 2011 KPMG Skilled Migration Survey of employers found that the subclass 457 visa program provided a flexible avenue to alleviate skill shortages in growth sectors such as the mining industry.

Use of the subclass 457 visa program is increasing, with 54 360 subclass 457 primary visas granted in 2010–11, an increase of 38.2 per cent compared to the same period the year before. The UK was the most popular source country, with 11 820 primary applicants granted visas.

The median processing time for a subclass 457 visa remains at a historically low level of 22 days.

Minister Bowen has announced that DIAC will introduce a Sponsorship Accreditation system from Monday 7 November 2011.

Employers can apply for Accredited Sponsor status to qualify for priority processing for Subclass 457 visa nominations and visa applications.

Accredited Sponsor status is valid for six years, unless it is revoked because the employer no longer meets the required criteria.

Accreditation status is for employers with have a long and positive history of dealing with the Department and an excellent record of compliance with workplace and migration laws.

Applications for Accredited Sponsor status are made in the same way as applications for approval as a Standard Business Sponsorship applications, online or using Form 1196S.

A company must meet all the following criteria to gain Accredited Sponsor status:

  • be a government agency, a publicly listed company, or a private company, with a minimum of $4 million turnover per year over the last three years;
  • have been an active Subclass 457 visa sponsor for the past three years (with a break of no more than six months, which was not due to any sanction);
  • have no adverse information known of it based on DIAC and DEEWR monitoring, including formal warnings and sanctions;
  • have had at least 30 primary Subclass 457 visa applications granted in the previous 12 months;
  • have lodged a high level of Decision Ready applications over the previous two years;
  • have a non-approval rate of less than three percent during the previous three years; and
  • have Australian workers comprising at least 75 percent of its workforce in Australia, and have made a commitment to maintain this level.

Information on sponsorship accreditation is on the DIAC website, with further information to be available on Monday 7 November.

November 3, 2011

Norway, Australia and the Netherlands lead this year’s newly released Human Development Index (HDI) rankings, the annual United Nations measure of progress in human well-being, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Niger and Burundi are at the bottom.

 

The HDI, issued today by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), combines measures of life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. This year a record 187 countries and territories were measured – up from 169 last year.

 

Norway retained its top position from last year, ahead of Australia and then the Netherlands, while the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Germany and Sweden comprise the remainder of the top 10 in that order.

 

But when the HDI is adjusted for economic inequality, Australia becomes number 1 in the world with 0.979 over 1, and New Zealand #2 with 0.978 and Norway # 3 with 0.975.

 

While Australia becomes number one,  standings of some countries fall significantly. The US falls from 4 to 23, the Republic of Korea (ROK) from 15 to 32, and Israel from 17 to 25.

 

In the case of the US and Israel, their positions are affected by income inequality, although health care is also an influencing factor for the US, while education gaps between generations are the main reason for the ROK’s ranking change.

 

In contrast, other countries’ standings improve after the HDI has been adjusted for inequality. Sweden jumps from 10 to five, Denmark from 16 to 12, and Slovenia rises from 21 to 14.

 

“The inequality-adjusted Human Development Index helps us assess better the levels of development for all segments of society, rather than for just the mythical ‘average’ person,” said Milorad Kovacevic, chief statistician for the Human Development Report that accompanies the index.

 

“We consider health and education distribution to be just as important in this equation as income, and the data show great inequities in many countries.”

 

The report, Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All, notes income distribution has worsened in most of the world and reveals Latin America has the largest income inequality, although it is more equitable than sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia in life expectancy and schooling.

 

The report also shows that countries at the bottom of the list still suffer from inadequate incomes, limited schooling opportunities and low expectancy rates due to preventable diseases such as malaria and AIDS.

 

The report stresses that a lot of the problems encountered by countries with low rankings are worsened by armed conflicts and its devastating consequences. In the DRC, the country with the lowest ranking, more than three million people died from warfare and conflict related illnesses.

 

Seven countries – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Marshall Islands, Monaco, Nauru, San Marino, Somalia and Tuvalu – were not included this year because of a lack of data.

 

UNDP today also released its related Gender Inequality Index, which puts various European countries at the forefront of gender equality. Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland head the rankings, followed by Finland, Norway and Germany.

 

That index takes into account indicators on reproductive health, schooling years, government representation and participation in the labour market. Yemen ranks as the least equitable, followed by Chad, Niger, Mali, the DRC and Afghanistan. In the case of Yemen, just 7.6 per cent of women have secondary education, 0.7 per cent of legislature seats are occupied by women and only 20 per cent of working-age women have paid jobs.

 

In addition, the report highlights regional differences which cause gender disparities. In sub-Saharan Africa, gender gaps arise in education and are worsened by high maternal mortality and adolescent fertility rates. In contrast, in South Asia, gender inequality is mainly due to women lagging behind men in parliamentary representation and labour force participation.

 

Source:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=40290&Cr=human+development&Cr1=

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