Australia is a popular destination for students. Not only does Australia offer an excellent lifestyle and many varied opportunities for students, it offers education and training options that are among the best in the world. Certainly, Australia is a much sought after destination for students wishing to learn English, but it is also popular with students studying all manner of courses, including Diploma of Business and Diploma of Accounting qualifications, and even games design courses.
An important generator of income for Australia
The education of international students in Australia is incredibly significant to the Australian economy. Not only do students from countries right across the world pay fees to be educated through Australian education and training providers, they also spend money on accommodation and a range of living costs, which ultimately provide jobs for Australian people.
Because Australia is the destination of choice for so many students wishing to study outside of their home country, education is an important factor in the international relations that Australia shares with other countries. Such relationships are vital to the creation of enhanced understanding of Australia and can create links and connections for individual people, businesses and communities.
However, for these benefits to be continued and enjoyed, Australia must ensure that it remains competitive internationally; this means Australia must continue to be an attractive option for international students and that processes for gaining entry to study in Australia (while continuing to be rigorous) should not seem impossible or obstructive.
Reforms to student visa process
There is great demand from international students to access quality educational experiences in Australia, as well as improve their language proficiency and acquire a beneficial qualification to further their career. In 2010, the Australian government appointed the Hon Michael Knight AO to conduct an independent review of the student visa program.
In June 2011, Mr Knight reported to the government and made 41 recommendations to improve the student visa process in Australia, in terms of its quality, integrity and competitiveness with other study destinations.
The Australian government supports and will implement the recommendations made in the Knight Review (with some modifications as necessary). Ultimately, the review and the approach of the government is to increase the performance of the educational sector while protecting the integrity of the system. Traditionally, a risk management approach to the student visa program has been in place and while this approach exists to uphold the integrity of the visa system, it fails to reflect the popularity, ever-growing size and complex nature of the Australian education market.
Changes have included:
- The levels of student visa assessment have been reduced for 38 countries (these levels apply to one or more student visa subclasses)
- The inclusion of new English language test providers for student visas
- Plans for the government to commence and finalise a review of the assessment level risk framework, with implementation of recommendations soon to follow
- Development of a provider-based risk management model to acknowledge and reward education providers that offer high-quality, low-risk services. In effect, revised and streamlined visa processing arrangements will be instituted for a number of university courses to enable more rapid and straightforward access for prospective students
- Financial requirements for higher risk Assessment Level 3 and Assessment Level 4 student visa applicants will be reduced in order to strengthen and support the competitiveness of the non-university education and vocational education training (VET) sectors.
- A new criteria (for upfront genuine temporary entrants to Australia) will be introduced to better facilitate student visas
- The government also plans to offer people who graduate from Bachelor, Masters and PhD courses in Australia access to a visa that allows them to work in Australia for up to four years after graduating from their university course in this country. This change enables people completing their studies in Australia the opportunity to acquire practical experience – and does not necessarily mean they are confined to working in a particular occupation.
- Arrangements for studying English in Australia are to be made more flexible for a number of people by having the English language test requirements for standalone English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) removed.
Australia is, understandably, a popular destination for students from overseas countries wishing to study abroad. While Australia has traditionally had very tight visa requirements for students, the Knight Review is creating greater flexibility and more streamlined processes while maintaining the integrity of the student visa system.