March 23, 2012

 

The international education sector is one of Australia’s largest export industries and is important to Australia in supporting bilateral ties with key partner countries, supporting employment in a broad range of occupations throughout the Australian economy, as well as delivering high-value skills to the economy.

In December 2010, the Australian Government appointed the Hon Michael Knight AO to conduct the first strategic review of the student visa program to help enhance the quality, integrity and competitiveness of the student visa program.

On 7 March 2011, Mr Knight released a discussion paper and encouraged interested parties to make a written submission to the review.
See: Student Visa Program Review Discussion Paper (212KB PDF file)

There were 200 submissions received and they are available on the department’s website.
See: Submissions Received by the Review Team

Report released

Mr Knight reported to the government on 30 June 2011 with 41 recommendations. On 22 September 2011, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, released Mr Knight’s report, Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011.
See: Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011 (1.7MB PDF file)

Government’s response

The government supports in principle all of Mr Knight’s recommendations, however some recommendations will be modified in places to enhance the performance of the Australian education sector and to better safeguard the integrity of the visa system.
See: Boost to International Education Sector in Response to Knight Review – Media release

The fact sheet on the Government Response to the Knight Review of the Student Visa Program is available on the department’s website.
See: Fact Sheet – Government Response to the Knight Review of the Student Visa Program ( 72KB PDF file)

All of Mr Knight’s recommendations are available, as well as the actual or planned implementation dates.
See: Knight Review of the Student Visa Program—Recommendations with Expected Implementation Date

Stage one implementation

Stage one implementation of the Knight Review changes commenced on 5 November 2011. The following fact sheet details these changes.
See:
Fact Sheet – Stage One Implementation of the Knight Review Changes to the Student Visa program ( 66KB PDF file)
Students to Benefit as Knight Review Changes Rolled Out – Media release

Stage two implementation

The majority of the stage two Knight Review changes commenced on 24 and 26 March 2012. This includes streamlined visa processing for certain university applicants from 24 March 2012. Other stage two Knight Review changes are proposed to commence later in 2012 and in early 2013.
See:
Fact Sheet – Stage Two Implementation of the Knight Review Changes to the Student Visa Program ( 68KB PDF file)
Changes to Boost International Education – Media Release

One of the recommendations agreed to by government is the introduction of new post-study work arrangements, which are planned to come into effect in 2013.

On 30 November 2011, the government announced plans to extend eligibility of the post-study work visa. In addition to university graduates, the new post-study work arrangements are to be extended to Bachelor, Masters by coursework, Masters by research and PhD degree graduates from other education providers accredited to offer degree level programs in Australia.

The government also announced that graduates must complete their qualifications as a result of meeting the Australian study requirement which requires at least two academic years’ study in Australia.
See:
Government Extends Support for International Education – Media Release
Australian Study Requirement

To address recommendation 24 of the Knight Review, the government has recently introduced a Bill into Parliament that proposes to cease the automatic cancellation of student visas. 
See: Improvements for Existing Student Visa Holders ( 76KB PDF file)

Discussion paper on the Review of the Student Visa Assessment Level Framework (Recommendation 32)

Comments on the discussion paper on the Review of the Student Visa Assessment Level Framework closed on 16 March 2012.
See: Discussion Paper on the Review of the Student Visa AL Framework (201KB PDF file)

Frequently asked questions

The following information package provides further detail on the Knight Review changes to the student visa program.
See:
The University Sector – Streamlined Processing ( 88KB PDF file)
Post-Study Work Arrangements ( 75KB PDF file)
Genuine Temporary Entrant Requirement ( 94KB PDF file)
Vocational Education and Training (VET), Schools and Non-Award Sectors ( 87KB PDF file)
English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) Sector ( 76KB PDF file)
Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Sector ( 79KB PDF file)
More Flexible Work Conditions ( 68KB PDF file)
Improvements for Existing Student Visa Holders ( 76KB PDF file)
Visa Processing Improvements ( 75KB PDF file)
Education Visa Consultative Committee (EVCC) ( 49KB PDF file)
Review of Assessment Level Framework ( 62KB PDF file)

See also: 
Review of Assessment Level Framework – Terms of Reference ( 59KB PDF file)
List of External Reference Group Members – Revi
ew of Assessment Level Framework

 

March 23, 2012

 

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, today announced key changes to the student visa program recommended by the Knight Review will commence from 24 March, as part of the government’s commitment to position Australia as a preferred study destination for international students.

‘International education plays a vital role in a growing economy, educational outcomes and Australia’s diplomatic engagement with other countries, so it’s important that we give it the best possible support,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘From 24 March, we are implementing streamlined visa processing arrangements for prospective students enrolled in Bachelor, Masters or Doctoral degrees at participating universities, making the application process simpler and faster.’

In recognition of these institutions’ track record, university students — regardless of their country of origin — will be treated as though they are lower risk and will need to submit less evidence in support of their visa application, similar to the current assessment level (AL) 1.

‘Universities in Australia have embraced the opportunity to sign up to the arrangements, which are expected to help boost international enrolments for semester two 2012 and beyond,’ Mr Bowen said.

From 26 March, the government will provide more flexible work conditions for all student visa holders, which will also provide more flexibility for their employers.

In recognition of the importance of the higher degree by research sector, the government will also allow postgraduate research (subclass 574) visa holders to work an unlimited amount of hours per week once their course has commenced, which will mean they can engage in employment related to their research.

Other Knight Review changes to be implemented from 24 March include:

Improved access to English language study for schools sector visa applicants and for student guardian visa holders

Removal of the requirement for higher risk schools sector visa applicants to provide evidence of an English language proficiency test.

In line with the Knight Review recommendations, the minister today introduced legislation to Parliament to abolish the automatic visa cancellation process for international students.

The Student Legislation Amendment (Student Visas) Bill will reduce complexity and uncertainty for students and provide for fairer, more efficient monitoring and compliance processes.

 

Thursday, 22 March 2012

March 20, 2012

 

NSW will be offered an extra $561 million during the next five years if it agrees to an overhaul of its vocational education training sector to produce the workers necessary to keep the economy moving.

The money will be part of $1.75 billion extra the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will put on the table for the states at the Council of Australian Governments meeting next month to encourage all states and territories to agree to the reforms.

NSW was already in line for $2.3 billion in skills funding from 2012-13 to 2016-17, which means the extra money will push that total close to $2.9 billion.

Ms Gillard has been warning that the nation needs to increase its skills base if the workforce is to adapt to the changing economy.

She has already announced that HECS-style loans – previously provided only to university students – will be made available for advanced diploma courses in fields such as information technology, childcare, aged care, engineering and telecommunications.

Other diploma students will be eligible for subsidies of up to $7800 a year.

Today, Ms Gillard is expected to expand significantly on extra inducements and reforms she wants the states to adopt when COAG meets on April 13.

These are expected to include more harmonisation of courses across Australia, more incentives to upgrade skills, and partnerships with industries seeking specific skilled workers.

A report to be released today, titled Skills for all Australians, says the government will expect “additional effort and system reform” in return for the money it is offering.

“The Commonwealth strongly believes that our training system must be aligned with industry and focused on meeting the needs of our changing economy,” it says.

“Simply funding additional training places is no longer an adequate response in an environment where international and domestic pressures are changing the way we do business.

“All governments must work to create the national training system … that more businesses can partner with to develop their workforces, where more students can get the basic qualification they need for a decent job in a higher-skills economy, where disadvantaged individuals and regions participate fully.”

Last week government modelling by Skills Australia showed a stark shortage of skilled workers in Sydney and regional NSW.

It found that by 2015 NSW would need an extra 180,000 trade or certificate workers, and 144,000 more diploma-qualified workers to meet demand. Almost 4.1 million people nationally, and 1.3 million in NSW, could be earning up to $10,000 a year more if they qualified to work in a growth sector of the economy.

The government says the extra $1.75 billion will not stop it returning the budget to surplus next financial year.

Source:  National Times  PHILLIP COOREY   19 Mar, 2012

March 20, 2012
March 20, 2012

NORTH Coast TAFE has welcomed a Federal Government proposal that would give TAFE students the chance to defer their course fees interest-free in a HECS-style system.

Under the Skills Plan proposal the government would abolish upfront fees for students in vocational education and training (VET) and provide a National Training Entitlement that would give every Australian a guaranteed place in training up to their first Certificate III.

The reforms are expected to cost the government $1.75 billion.

Federal MP Justine Elliot has applauded the announcement saying it will give Tweed residents without a post-school qualification the chance to up-skill and earn more money.

“No longer will local people be locked out of a higher qualification simply because they can’t pay the fees upfront,” Mrs Elliot said.

“Opening up a HECS-style system will put those wanting to undertake vocational education and training on a level footing with university students for the first time.”

The offer is particularly appealing to rural and regional North Coast TAFE students who rely on completing a TAFE course before moving to metropolitan universities or starting distance education.

Institute director Elizabeth McGregor is looking forward to more discussion of the proposal at a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) next month.

“COAG has previously set a target of doubling by 2020 the number of people completing higher level VET qualifications,” Ms McGregor said.

“We in North Coast TAFE welcome the thrust of these proposals as they recognise that the capabilities developed through undertaking TAFE diplomas or advanced diploma are equally important to our nation’s productivity as university qualifications, and that students studying them are equally deserving of financial assistance.

“Apart from providing industry recognised, job-ready skills, a higher level TAFE course also gives a significant head start towards a university degree.

“Workers with a TAFE certificate or diploma could earn up to $10,000 a year extra or $400,000 more over their working lifetime.”

The Skills Plan will also see the release of a new My Skills website later this year which will allow students to compare courses, fees, providers and the quality of training on offer.

 

Source: mydailynews.com.au Rebecca Masters | 20th March 2012

March 12, 2012

 

A renewed pride in the Australian flag seems to have bloomed as a new wave of patriotism sweeps the nation. Picture: Bob Barker

MIGRANT numbers have hit a two-year high, confirming that we are hurtling towards a “Big Australia”.

And more than 160 protection visas are being issued to asylum seekers each week as the Federal Government deals with rising numbers of arrivals by boat and air.

About 146,000 permanent settlers came to Australia in the past year, the most since 2010.

There were 14,210 arrivals in January alone – a 41-month high.

But the growth in population is much higher when the number of foreigners given permanent residency visas is taken into account.

Net overseas migration is about 184,000 a year and is expected to reach 204,000 by mid-2015, according to the latest Immigration Department forecasts.

The so-called Big Australia target of 36 million by 2050, disowned by PM Julia Gillard before the last election, is on track with annual net migration of 180,000 and above.

Monash University population expert Dr Bob Birrell said permanent immigration was at a very high level and temporary migration was increasing at an even higher rate.

“This is a sign of what’s in store for us given the Government’s policy settings,” he said.

Separate Immigration Department figures show 4260 asylum seekers were given protection visas in the second half of last year. This compares with 4818 visas for the whole of 2010-11.

About half of the successful visa applicants were from Afghanistan and Iran, while significant numbers also came from Iraq and Sri Lanka, according to the department’s latest Asylum Statistics Australia report.

Of those given visas in the second half of last year, 2845 were boat arrivals and 1412 sought asylum after arriving by air.

Adult boat arrivals are initially detained, but the Government’s policy is to release people while their refugee claims are assessed.

It has been reported the Government will start releasing 400 asylum seekers a month into the community after initially promising to release 100 a month.

The Opposition has branded Labor’s asylum seeker policy as “let them in and let them out”, but the Government says if the Coalition were truly concerned about boat arrivals it would pass the Malaysia solution legislation.

Source: Herald Sun March 07, 2012 by: John Masanauskas

March 12, 2012

 

The government will replace the six employer sponsored permanent visa programs with two simplified categories.

The Australian Government has announced plans to make it easier for skilled migrants to become permanent Australian residents.

The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the changes will simplify the process for people who hold 457 visas which give temporary work rights, to apply for the permanent employer-sponsored visa program.

From July this year, overseas workers in the 457 category won’t have to have a second skills test and English test to become eligible for residency.

But the changes will tighten the application process for people who apply for permanent visas without having worked in Australia already.

Mr Bowen says applicants seeking direct entry to Australia will first be expected to sit a basic English test .

“Particularly remembering these people are often living in regional Australia, where perhaps the level of access to English training might not be as extensive as it would be in capital cities, and they will be working in occupations that will require a good level of English in any event,” he said.

Mr Bowen says the government will also replace the six employer sponsored permanent visa programs with two simplified categories.

He says the changes will help deal with critical skills shortages in some industries.

The chief executive of the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries, Gary Brack, told Radio Australia the streamlined process could help alleviate labor supply shortages in some sectors.

“One of the most important aspects of this is the speed with which you can actually make the transition,” he said.

“Employers get caught short in the market if they can’t recruit somebody. A lot of them are desperate to get people at a particular time. So if it can be expedited in the way that it’s been discussed, then that will certainly be advantageous.”

Ged Kearney, the president of Australia’s peak union body, the ACTU, says while the changes would have distinct advantages for overseas workers, it must not undermine the ability for local workers to obtain those jobs.

She told Radio Australia there is a possibility that migrant workers could be exploited by their employers under the planned changes.

“We would not like to see a situation where the overseas worker’s still bonded to an employer simply because they have been encouraged to hang on – maybe in sub-standard terms and conditions or sub-standard wages et cetera, with the promise that if you work for less money, or work for less conditions, we can now get you permanent residency,” she said.

The Opposition says the government should go further with its attempts to cut red tape for skilled migration.

The Coalition’s immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the government should also reintroduce the immigration concessions that were scrapped in 2009.

“The government abolished the regional concessions for 457s when they came to government ,which was a major and important program for particularly small and regional business,” he said.

“The government has not restored those concessions.”

 

The new system will operate from July 1.

 

Source: Reuters – Anna Henderson and Girish Sawlani, Canberra Fri, 9 Mar 2012

March 9, 2012

 

INTERNATIONAL students comprise over a quarter of onshore enrolments at half of the Group of Eight, while one in three students at highly ranked Macquarie University is from overseas, a new Australian Education International report has found.

The AEI snapshot suggests Australia’s elite universities are heavily reliant on fragile overseas markets, with international students representing around 27 per cent of enrolments at Melbourne, ANU, UNSW and Adelaide.

The DEEWR-sourced data shows that the proportion of international students at all Go8 institutions apart from the University of Western Australia is above the national average of 22.3 per cent.

But international education researcher Alan Olsen said this was a reasonable average, and it was no surprise Go8 institutions were above it.

“An aggregate 22.3 per cent is appropriate for Australia, where 22.2 per cent of us were born overseas and 21.5 per cent speak a language other than English at home,” Mr Olsen said.

Mr Olsen said only around 8 per cent of people in the UK were born overseas, and about 12 per cent in the US.

A separate AEI report last month found that Australia’s proportion of international tertiary enrolments was more than three times the OECD average of 6.7 per cent, and six times the US average of 3.4 per cent.

But it found international students in the US were concentrated in about 25 highly ranked institutions, with two – Columbia and the University of Southern California – experiencing international proportions above the Australian average.

The international proportion of enrolments was 22.1 per cent at Stanford, 20 per cent at Cornell, 19.9 per cent at Georgia Institute of Technology and 18.4 per cent at Harvard, it added.

But these figures pale compared to some Australian universities, with the dual-sector University of Ballarat leading the pack at 47.7 per cent, followed by private Bond University at 40.5 per cent.

Ballarat has about 5600 domestic students and 5100 international students, according to the new AEI figures.

But Ballarat vice-chancellor David Battersby said the figures were “disingenuous” because they didn’t differentiate between dual-sector and standalone universities.

“They create a false impression about what a dual-sector university is, suggesting some sort of line in the sand between our higher education and VET students,” he said.

“That’s not the case – we have integrated schools. Why would they want to make the dual-sectors invisible in all this?”

Professor Battersby said Ballarat had a total of about 17,000 domestic students and an international proportion of about 22 per cent.

The AEI figures reveal above average international proportions at the other three Victorian dual-sectors – 32.8 per cent at Swinburne, 29.3 per cent at RMIT and 23.8 per cent at VU.

A DEEWR spokesperson said AEI had used information supplied by universities. “This ensures comparable data for all institutions,” he said.

“The table compares onshore international and domestic higher education students. [No] VET students were included for any university.”

Professor Battersby said most of Ballarat’s international students were with longstanding partners.

“While there has been a decline in our overall number of international students, our partner provider model has proven to be resilient,” he said.

Meanwhile, draft legislation for the tuition protection service – the new consumer protection facility for overseas students recommended by the Baird review – suggests universities will be required to sign up.

Universities and TAFEs have been exempted from paying fees to the existing ESOS Assurance Fund, and universities had lobbied for the arrangement to continue.

But Professor Battersby said the TPS needed to be seen as part of “a big package of arrangements” for international students including the Knight Review student visa reforms as well as changes stemming from the Baird Review.

Source : Australian

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

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