Colleges to get fast track visas for international students

by Ray Clancy on April 26, 2012

in Education in Australia

Streamlined visas will benefit overseas students seeking vocational studies

International students seeking visas for vocational studies at colleges deemed to be low risk will now have to wait less time under a new streamlined system.

Universities were granted access to the faster visa processing system earlier this year but Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges were not to be included until next year. Now the government has brought forward their inclusion to the second half of this year.

TAFE courses are predominantly vocational courses in industries such as business and finance as well as tourism and hospitality, construction and engineering and community work.

Announcing the relaxation in New South Wales, Premier Barry O’Farrell said the change will compensate for the tightening of visa rules in 2009 which saw international student numbers in the region fall.

‘International education is a $6 billion industry for New South Wales, our second largest in terms of exports. We have the largest international education industry in Australia but in recent years it has been hit by the double whammy of visa changes and the high Australian dollar,’ explained O’Farrell.

He pointed out that international student numbers had fallen by 20% in the 2010/2011 academic year, with the country’s international reputation suffering after several high profile cases of attacks on foreign students combined with a rising Australian dollar.

The decision to bring forward TAFE participation means that the relaxed rules will be in place in time for the next academic year, a move which O’Farrell said will re-establish Australia’s competitiveness on the international stage.

Students will find it easier to get their visas approved and this will bring TAFE in line with universities as well, according to said Pam Christie, deputy director general at TAFE New South Wales.

‘It will make New South Wales more globally competitive with other countries that provide international education like Canada, the US and Europe,’ she added.

The International Education Association of Australia welcomed the development, but said the government needed to tread carefully to avoid rekindling the problems the international education industry had experienced four or five years ago.

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