08 March 2012

Australian immigration's $3 billion damage to education industry dismissed

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Figures released yesterday which show changes to Australian immigration policy have caused a AU$3 billion (£2 billion) fall in revenue to the education industry have been dismissed by the tertiary education minister, Chris Evans.

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The tertiary and education minister, Chris Evans, is unconcerned with a fall in revenue from the education industry.

The figures, released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, showed the education industry suffered its worst year in 2011 with just AU$13.9 billion (£9.4 billion) compared to the previous year's AU$17.2 billion (£11.6 billion). The drop in revenue has been widely attributed to the tightening of Australian immigration policy alongside a strengthening Australian dollar.

A report released in early 2011 predicted that the worst case scenario for such a fall in revenue across the education industry would be 3%; the figures released yesterday reveal a 20% decline.

The biggest downfall has so far been in the vocational and English language sectors which endured much scrutiny in 2008 and 2009 after claims that the courses were being exploited and defrauded by foreign nationals purely for the privileges the visa would bring, a process known as 'rorting'.

The report's bleak findings prompted disappointment from many in the education industry, typically directed toward the government's perceived lack of, or delayed, response.

"It bears out our worst fears about the downturn," said University of Melbourne's higher education expert, Simon Marginson.

The head of English Australia, Sue Blundell, said: "If this was related to manufacturing, we would see a different response."

The Australian government have implemented some changes to the immigration system which are intended to attract more international students; these include a quicker processing time, post-study work rights and lower financial requirements needed in order to qualify for an Australian visa.

It is these changes combined with the concentration of the downfall which has caused Mr Evans to dismiss the figures, stating he was "not concerned by the statistics reported and I don't accept the criticism."

"The fall-off has been in the lower levels of vocational courses and that reflects the government's decision that I made when I was immigration minister to the end the migration rorts. That sector was characterised by visa-rorting; people being sold a visa rather than an education."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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