The Australian government has announced a review of the student visa program along with a set of measures intended to help Australia's international education sector.
One of Australia's most valuable industries is the international Education sector. Thousands of students each year come to Australia to gain a world-class education. However, recently announced changes to Australian immigration law will possible have an adverse effect on the sector, prompting industry stakeholders to lobby for relaxed requirements for overseas students.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Chris Evans, announced the student visa review on 16 December 2010.
"The Australian international education sector has come under increasing pressure as a result of the rising value of the Australian dollar, the ongoing impact of the global financial crisis in some countries, and growing competition from the United States, New Zealand and Canada for international students," Evans said.
Evans stressed the importance of the international education sector. With his experience as Bowen's predecessor as Immigration Minister, Evans has a unique understanding of the importance of overseas students to Australia's economy.
"That's why the Gillard Government is commissioning a strategic review of the student visa program, which will give education providers and stakeholders an important opportunity to share their vision of the sector's future," he said.
Evans said the review is aimed at "enhancing the continued competitiveness" of the international education industry while improving the student visa program's "integrity".
"The review will examine and make recommendations on a more effective partnership framework between key stakeholders and requirements for Student visa applicants," said Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.
Bowen said their was a possibility of creating separate visas for different education sectors. He also said the government would introduce measures aimed at streamlining the visa application process for "lower risk" groups.
"These measures support the government's recent reforms to enhance the integrity of the student visa program and refocus the skilled migration program to deliver the high value skills the Australian economy needs over the medium to long term," Bowen said.
The measures will include:
- Reducing the student visa assessment levels from April 2011; Higher education visa assessment levels for applicants from China and India will also be reduced.
- It will be easier to include pre-paid boarding fees in the students' cost of living requirements in visa applications.
- Improving communication between the government and the international education sector; This will include a quarterly statistical publication on the student visa program to allow the sector to track emerging student visa trends.
- Enabling assessment level 4 vocational education and training (VET) students to undertake certificate level courses to meet visa requirements.
Australia realizes the importance of the international education sector in the nation's economy and will be making changes to make it easier for students to study in Australia. In comparison, other Countries such as the UK will be making it more difficult for students to obtain a student visa.
"It's important that Australian education continues to be highly regarded for the quality of course offerings available to international students who choose to study here," Evans said.