Australian immigration minister Chris Evans and the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Chris Bowen, have announced a number of measures to make Australia's international education sector more competitive.
The new measures are a response to a report Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011, authored by the Honorable Michael Knight AO.
"Our international education sector is world class, and the reforms announced today will help entrench Australia as a preferred destination for international students," Evans said in a statement.
"The reforms will assist in ensuring Australia remains an attractive study option and will offer practical support for international education providers that have been under pressure as a result of the high Australian dollar," he added.
The Australian government will introduce a new streamlined visa processing arrangement for a number of Australian university courses which will give foreign students enrolled in a bachelor degree program or higher easier visa access.
"These students, regardless of their country of origin, will be treated as though they are lower risk, similar to the current Assessment Level (AL) 1 requirements," the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) stated.
Bowen also announced that financial requirements for certain prospective foreign students would be lowered.
"Our consultations found that the financial requirements for Student Visas were too onerous, so we are reducing the financial requirements for some applicants, with students now needing around $36,000 less in the bank when applying for a visa," Bowen said.
He said this new measure would particurlaly assist a large number of Vocational Education and Training and private education providers.
A two to four-year post-study work visa will also be available for university graduates. The length of time will depend on the level of study completed.
"Students are increasingly looking to augment their studies with graduate work experience and this further post-study work visa option will offer university students a more complete study experience in Australia," Evans said.
Other changes include:
- allowing all English language students to apply for a visa without first meeting minimum English skills requirements;
- extending the time a PhD student can stay in Australia while their thesis is marked;
- establising an Education Visa Consultative Committee to improve information flow between the Australian Government and the international education sector; and
- repealing the automatic cancellation and mandatory cancellation provisions for student visas.
DIAC said that Australia's student visas issued has more than doubled from 108,000 in 1997-98 to 269,828 in 2009-10.