The new Skilled Occupation List has been released and would be made effective on July 1, 2010. There are just 181 occupations in the new list which government points to a shift of work immigration policy from a supply based listing to a system driven by demand to directly address areas in the Australian economy that require new employees. Taken off the list were less valuable occupations such as hairdressing, cookery and community welfare with greater focus on medical professions, engineering and construction employment.
Immigration Minister Chris Evans has said the changes are long overdue and said, “We’re very supportive of students coming here to study, we’re very keen for them to take advantage of our top quality education system,” he said in Perth on Monday, “but if students come here, they come here to buy an education, not to buy a visa for permanent migration.”
The changes have drawn lots of criticism from the education sector. The Australian Council for Private Education and Training has warned the country’s reputation as an educational zone would be tarnished due to the changes. The association represents over 1,100 schools that would be severely affected by the changes instituted by the Rudd government.
The most severely affected would be international students, especially those studying in midstream and find their courses removed under the SOL. The result would have these individual students finding new schools that would accept their attained courses. As for private colleges, they would need to reapply for accreditation for their new course curricula in their respective institutions.
There has already been a significant drop in the number of applicants from India and China, two of the countries with the largest foreign student populations in the country. “It is only logical to see this drop in the number of continuing students and an even greater drop in starting students numbers. Every government in the world has the right to determine who can access its borders. However, subjecting current international students to the new legislative requirements constitutes an act of deceit and deceptive conduct,” one commenter had said.
Mr. Tony Pollock of the IDP, the country’s largest international student recruiter, observed that there is growing frustration amongst the foreign student community. He further warned that, “My concern is that the numbers for the next 12 months are going to be severely impacted,” he said. These numbers include almost Aus$2 billion in lost revenue for the industry and the economy as a whole.
There have been a round of protests populated mainly by international students. There have been fifteen private colleges closed with over three thousand students losing their eligibilities. Despite all these criticisms and protest, the Education Ministry believes that the sector is resilient enough to weather the firestorm, saying “The introduction of the new Skilled Occupations List will require a refocusing for some education and training providers, but we believe the market is well placed to continue as a world leader in international education services.”