International students wanting to study in Australia need to have substantially more money compared to countries like the UK, US and Canada, according to researchers.
There is growing concern that a drop in the number of overseas students could be due to the high costs that include having to prove you have enough money before being granted a visa.
Research from the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy says that a student would need at least $108,000 to cover tuition fees and living costs for the duration of a three-year degree. In contrast, students only need about $40,500 in the US and $23,000 to $25,000 in Canada, Britain and New Zealand.
Its report points out that Australia’s student visas are more segmented and more costly. Other countries have just one type of student visa for higher education students. ‘Student financial requirements are much more prescriptive and substantially greater in Australia, primarily because we require substantial evidence of financial capability over the whole of an applicant’s proposed stay. All other countries require evidence for the first year only or for some nominal level of financial capability,’ it says.
The Australian Government collects and assesses information on financial viability of student visa applications. ‘Australia is unique in applying different assessment standards to applications on the basis of country and course level. In the other countries examined, immigration agencies rely on supporting documentation from institutional enrolment procedures and make assessments in a uniform manner regardless of level of study or country of origin,’ the report also reveals.
All the countries examined have relatively strict conditions under which students can work. With the exception of Canada, they limit work time to no more than 20 hours a week during the academic session. In Canada, work restrictions are even tighter. Students have to demonstrate a requirement in relation to their coursework or unanticipated financial difficulty before they are granted the right to work.
Australia, the UK and New Zealand have a strict delineation between study and temporary work visas, but students having the capacity to articulate to a work visa on the basis of their qualification and skill needs within the country. These countries make special allowance for former international students to apply for temporary visas. In contrast, the US and Canada have provisions attached to their student visa which allow students to work for at least one year at the completion of their studies.
The report recommends that the Australia student visa policy should be reassessed in view of current practice elsewhere in a bid to halt the decline in applications from overseas. In particular, four key issues emerge: a single student visa for higher education students, limiting financial requirements to the first year, a switch of emphasis to proof of funds rather than proof of source of funding, and inclusion of a post study work component.
The Curtin Institute has forecast that falling international student numbers in higher education could cost the economy as many as 19,000 jobs by 2012. Indeed, according to government agency Australian Education International, the number of total enrolments in Australia is down 1.4% at 599,795 students.
There is concern that many would be students regard the Australian visa system as being too tight and this is discouraging applicants. The international education sector is readying itself for a substantial drop in numbers next year.