A series of measures to enhance competitiveness in Australia’s international education sector have been announced including streamlined arrangements for overseas students at bachelor degree or higher levels.
‘Our international education sector is world class, and the reforms announced today will help entrench Australia as a preferred destination for international students,’ said Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations.
‘The reforms will assist in ensuring Australia remains an attractive study option and will offer practical support for international education providers that have been under pressure as a result of the high Australian dollar,’ he added.
He said that the government will introduce new streamlined visa processing arrangements for a range of Australian university courses for faster, easier visa access for prospective students in time for the second semester next year. They will apply to international students enrolled in courses at the level of bachelor degree or higher. These students, regardless of their country of origin, will be treated as though they are lower risk.
Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, said the government acknowledged that the financial requirements for student visas were too onerous and they will be reduced for some applicants, with students now needing around $36 000 less in the bank when applying for a visa.
A two to four year post study work visa will also be available for university graduates depending on the level of study completed. Other work visa options, such as the Temporary Skilled 457 visa and the Skilled Graduate Visa, continue to be available to graduates and to employers looking to meet genuine skills needs.
‘Students are increasingly looking to augment their studies with graduate work experience and this further post study work visa option will offer university students a more complete study experience in Australia,’ Evans said.
‘We need to move to a more targeted approach to assessing and responding to immigration risk in the student visa programme that recognises and rewards high quality education providers,’ Bowen said.
The new measures are in response to the Knight Review of student. They will also allow all English language students to apply for a visa without first meeting minimum English skills requirements; extend the time a PhD student can stay in Australia while their thesis is marked; establish an Education Visa Consultative Committee to improve information flow between the Australian Government and the international education sector; and repeal the automatic cancellation and mandatory cancellation provisions for student visas.
The government has accepted all 41 recommendations in the Knight Review, with the majority proposed to be implemented through 2012/13 so that key recommendations can come into effect before the second semester of 2012.
Universities Australia welcomed the response.
‘The changes proposed to visa requirements for students enrolled at Australian universities will help to maintain an internationally competitive international education sector that confirms Australia as an attractive higher education destination over the long term,’ said Universities Australia chief executive officer Dr Glenn Withers.
‘The extension of graduate work visas beyond 18 months and the streamlining of visa processing arrangements together realise the Government’s intent to put quality education at the forefront of the visa system,’ he added.