The higher education sector in Australia is concerned about how changes to visa programmes will affect students from overseas who want to study in Australia.

Nor is the industry sure how the creation of the new super Home Affairs Department will have an impact as it is just a few weeks since it was formed in what has been the second significant reform in a decade.


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Home Affairs has seen both immigration and law enforcement come under one department for the first time.

'The jury's still out on the extent to which two different departmental cultures merging into one will impact on the new department being conducive to student visa support,' said Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA).

'In most cases, it seems to come down to the personnel involved, and already we've had examples of border protection background people taking on substantive senior management roles in the immigration student visa space,' he explained.

There are concerns that officials who previously specialised in border protection would have a significant learning curve in understanding the benefits of international education and transitioning away from the type of scrutiny previously applied to other visa types.

'Crucially, the key people who are slotted into key decision making roles in the student visa space need to be properly educated to the nuances of supporting the international education sector,' Honeywood pointed out.

While it is still unclear whether there will be a change in the way the super department view applications from international students, Joff Allen, chief executive of EduCo International Group, said officials need to be aware that change can put off young people from applying if they view getting a visa as hard or long drawn out.

From March the 457 temporary skilled work visa is replaced with a more stringent Temporary Skill Shortage visa and it is hoped that this will not directly affect student visas or the post-study work rights visa scheme.

Experts believe that fewer international students will be eligible for the upcoming TSS visa than for the 457 visa but figures show that the number of student visa holders moving to a 457 visa has been gradually decreasing over the last three years.

'While the reforms do not have a direct relationship to education, international students do consider future employment opportunities in choosing study destinations,' said Rod Camm, chief executive of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET).

But he added; 'Any perceived tightening of migration conditions may discourage some students from choosing Australia as their study destination'.