Australia facing challenges to attract overseas students

by Ray Clancy on January 7, 2011

in Education in Australia

Oz hard pressed to entice foreign students

The higher education sector in Australian is welcoming changes to student visas announced by the federal government, which reduces the requirement to have financial support from three years to two years.

Universities had seen a huge drop in applicants from overseas students last year when the Australian government tightened student visa requirements to prevent students gaining permanent residence through lower-skilled vocational student immigration routes.

Other factors though have also made it less attractive to study in Australia such as the high dollar, increased competition from other countries and student concerns about being able to stay in Australia when they have finished their studies.

The sudden collapse in demand from international students was particularly noticed in terms of applicants from India and China and the education sector warned that it depends heavily on international students as a source of funding.

Commentators said that the generally long application process and tough visa requirements for Asian students and having to prove that they have approximately $100,000 for tuition fees and living expenses was unsustainable. They pointed out that students from English speaking countries usually require about a quarter of that amount.

Now, the changes announced by Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen and the Minister of Tertiary Education, Chris Evans, mean that students will need to demonstrate lesser funds in order to obtain a visa for higher education.

For all student visa applications to be lodged on or after April 1, 2011, students will need to show that they have funds for only two years of their studies instead of the current three-year requirement.

The new law that comes into effect in April 2011 will also allow students to be sponsored by any individual against the current legal requirement that limits the sponsorship to the applicant’s spouse, parents, siblings, grandparents and uncle or aunt.

South Australia has been hit by the decline. It is estimated that international education is worth more than $1 billion to the state’s economy, second only to wine. It has overtaken iron and copper ore mining in export earnings, the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.

Premier Mike Rann said that other factors such as a high Australian dollar and increased global competition make attracting overseas students harder. ‘Changes to the Skilled Migration List are also limiting opportunities for students to stay and work in Australia after they’ve graduated,’ he said.

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