November 7, 2013
November 7, 2013

THE Abbott government yesterday moved to loosen visa restrictions to attract international students, prompting calls for increased funding for regulators to ensure there was no return to the “visa factory” that marked the height of the 2008-09 higher education boom.

From next year, tougher restrictions on students from countries with the highest risk of visa fraud will be scrapped, effectively reducing the cash such applicants are required to have in the bank to support themselves during their study.

The government has also fast-tracked a decision to extend streamlined visa processing beyond the university sector to 22 TAFEs and private providers that deliver bachelor degrees and higher qualifications.

The government wants to boost international student revenue from about $15 billion last year back to the former peak of almost $19bn. “The changes will assist all providers, but particularly the vocational education and training sector, making access to Australia’s education system more attractive for overseas students,” Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said.

TAFE Directors Australia’s head of international engagement Peter Holden welcomed the move, noting that the previous Labor government had not acted on a vow to extend streamlined processing, instead sitting on a decision for 18 months.

Mr Holden said he was disappointed that it remained limited to bachelor degree- and higher-qualification students, noting that public TAFEs should be trusted to monitor students doing sub-degree programs.

He said the loosening of restrictions should be matched by more resources for the Australian Skills Quality Authority to adequately monitor the sector. “We would be looking to ASQA to maintain, if not increase their surveillance.” Phil Honeywood, head of the International Education Association of Australia, also urged the government to extend the streamlined system to reputable vocational providers offering diplomas and certificates.

He was confident that scrutiny on degree-granting providers was sufficient, but extending streamlined processing to students undertaking diplomas and certificates would need to be backed by sufficient monitoring.

Adrian McCoomb, head of the Council of Private Higher Education, was delighted, saying that under Labor it had been a “debacle” trying to get approval for private providers to compete for international students on equal terms with universities.

Opposition higher education spokesman Kim Carr said the government should be cautious. “The advice provided to me during my time as minister was that the quality of the companies operating in this area varied considerably and that unsustainable levels of international students can lead to further questions about the quality of education.”

Source: ANDREW TROUNSON,  THE AUSTRALIAN  OCTOBER 30, 2013 

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.

August 31, 2012

 

While most international students in Australia are full-fee paying students, another option is to apply for a scholarship.

Scholarships are offered by education institutions and a number of other organisations and the Australian Government.  They cover various educational sectors, including

  • vocational education and training,
  • student exchanges,
  • undergraduate and
  • postgraduate study and research.

Usually Australian Government scholarships are not available for English language training specifically in Australia. However, there are several English language training scholarships offered by Australian institutions.

For information on scholarships use Australian Government  Scholarships Database. It provides an accurate and reliable list of all scholarships supplied by Australian-based organisations, institutions and government bodies to international students studying or planning to study in Australia on a student visa.

The Australia Awards aim to promote knowledge, education links and enduring ties between Australia and our neighbours through Australia’s extensive scholarship programs.

The Australia Awards brings the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) scholarships together under the Australia Awards program.

Further information can be found at www.AustraliaAwards.gov.au

There are three programs available under the Australia Awards. They are:

  • Endeavour Awards is the Australian Government’s internationally competitive, merit-based scholarship program providing opportunities for citizens of the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Europe and the America’s to undertake study, research or professional development in Australia. Further information can be found at: www.deewr.gov.au/EndeavourAwards

 

  • Australian Leadership Awards (ALA) focus on developing leaders who can influence social and economic policy reform and development outcomes in both their own countries and in the Asia-Pacific region. ALAs provide scholarship support for postgraduate studies in Australia and short-term fellowship opportunities in specialised research, study or professional attachments through participating Australian organisations. Further information can be found at: www.ausaid.gov.au/scholar

 

  • Australian Development Scholarships (ADS) aim to contribute to the long-term development needs of Australia’s partner countries to promote good governance, economic growth and human development. ADS provides people with the necessary skills and knowledge to drive change and influence the development outcomes of their own country, through obtaining tertiary qualifications at participating Australian institutions. Further information can be found at: www.ausaid.gov.au/scholar
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
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

 

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

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

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

 

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