Australian universities do not feel the new visa relaxations do not go far enough to attract more international students.
22 February 2012
Universities begrudgingly sign up to Australian visa scheme
Despite several colleges criticising new Australian visa policy for international students, all 39 of the country's universities have opted in to the process.
The Australian education industry has begun to falter in recent months due to the rising Australian dollar, a lack of support for international student and several high-profile attacks on Indian students. In response, the government has outlined a new streamlined Australian visa application process which will make it easier and cheaper for foreign nationals from 29 countries to apply to Australian universities.
Some colleges have complained that the relaxations do not go far enough and will not attract enough foreign students to return the education industry, Australia's third largest export, to previous levels.
"We've kept the same standards, we maintained our continued improvement processes, and we've been audited," said Sarah Logan, deputy principal at Strathfield College in Sydney.
"We're doing everything right. We're improving all our quality across the board. However, the students are just not there. Now, I don't think it is just the visa assessment levels, themselves. I do think there are a number of other factors in this, and that the global financial crisis is definitely one of them."
The new scheme requires universities to take increased responsibility for international students and many were concerned about the increased burden placed. Participating universities have been ranked by Australian immigration authorities in 'risk levels' from one to four.
Most universities have reportedly been ranked at level two, although several have been ranked at levels three and four but have been given until March 2013 to address these issues and reduce their ranking or face losing access to the new system.
Despite complaints and concerns, all 39 of Australia's university's have opted into the new system with Dean Forbes, deputy vice-chancellor at Flinders University in Adelaide praising the new system as innovative but warning that a university could suffer if it lost its place in the new system.
"For many Australian universities, the inevitable consequence of losing access to the streamline program will be a significant reduction in international students and a precipitous decline in revenue.
"In a worst-case scenario, such as where this exacerbates reduced revenue due to the demand-based funding model, one or two might be pushed close to insolvency."
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian High Commission.