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