13 February 2012

Education body recommends universities sign up to Australia visa reforms

Universities Australia, the peak body representing the public interest of the country's universities, has recommended the sector accept the new streamlined Australian visa application process.

Australia visa

Universities Australia has recommended Australia's 39 universities should sign up to the Knight reforms.

The education industry in Australia has begun to falter in recent months and the cause of this has often been cited due to the decline in the number of Australia visa applications from foreign students.  Many considered this was due to the fact that international students, particularly Chinese students, had to prove they had as much as AU$75,000 (£50,000) to support themselves.

A series of reforms, known as the Knight reforms, suggested by former politician Michael Knight in a scathing report on the industry had been touted as a possible solution to the problem but many were sceptical.

Now however, Universities Australia (UA) has endorsed the reforms and encouraged all 39 of Australia's universities to subscribe to the new policy.

Many universities had doubts about the increased administrative burden the new reforms would place on their establishments. Under the new system, international students enrolling in universities will be deemed low risk by Australian immigration authorities and the university will bear more responsibility for the student.

Margaret Gardner, UA's lead vice chancellor for international issues has claimed the reform's guidelines that universities cannot necessarily be responsible for every aspect of a student's behaviour in Australia.

"As far as Universities Australia is concerned we have got ourselves to a good place that serves the department's objectives, implements the Knight review and allows us to work our way through this in the next year or so as we see how this system works in practice," said Professor Gardner.

"I suspect that close to all universities will probably sign up."

The guidelines are expected to be published in full next week and are thought to instruct participating universities to ensure international students have appropriate levels of English as well as sufficient financial resources to support themselves, something Professor Gardner assures most universities do anyway:

"We are used to self-accrediting, we are used to quality assurance regimes, we should be trusted to be able to put in place robust quality assurance regimes and we aren't afraid to demonstrate what they are."

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

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