The quick drop in the number of international students in Australia has raised concerns about the education industry.
17 January 2012
Australia visa regulations relaxed in an attempt to attract students
The Australian education industry could be at risk of becoming victim to Australia's thriving economy. The rising Australian dollar, combined with the collapse of some colleges has led to more and more international students reconsidering their decision to study in Australia.
Changes to the Australian visa application process have been made but, with the new processes still being rolled out and the new academic year about to get underway in Australia, several people within the education industry have raised their concerns.
"Last year we saw a 20% decrease in students offshore putting in applications to come and study in Australia" said Claire Field from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training. "There are a number of students who are [in Australia] who chose to extend their visas or apply for another one to another course, without that the industry would have been in freefall."
While Ms Field has commended the Australian government's efforts to expand work rights for all students after graduating from universities, according to her the measures do not go far enough "the government has done the right thing and opened up [work rights] to students who want to come and study at universities or private higher education providers. What they haven't done yet is also offer those opportunities to students wanting to come and study vocational education and training."
Several politicians and members of the education industry have recently travelled abroad in an attempt to attract more students and repair reputations which, according to Ms Field, will be hard for international students to ignore.
"The small number of cowboys have largely been weeded out but when reputations have been damaged they can take a very long time to rebuild and it will take Australia and the state governments a long time to put back the relationships and the trust that was there and which unfortunately were so badly damaged by the behaviour and operations of a small minority in the industry."
A spokesperson for the Federation of International Students doubted whether the changes in the visa application process would make any immediate difference as "it takes a few years for people overseas to understand what the changes actually mean" and she cited the lack of travel concessions which international students receive as one of the main reasons that "international students have lost a lot of faith in the [Australian] government...it just seems that [Australian universities] want their money but at the same time not providing anything extra."
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent Australian immigration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.