28 October 2010

Australian immigration policies have ‘hit student numbers’, says education minister

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Government immigration policies have played a part in the crisis in foreign student numbers, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans has admitted.

Australian Visa

Australian student visa numbers are dropping due to a range of issues that include the tougher Australian Visa rules.

Dramatic changes to Australia's Skilled Occupation List (SOL) for migration, along with long Australian visa processing delays, university fee increases and the strong Australian dollar, have seen students choose to study in other countries.

"It is clear that Australia is facing a downturn in international student enrolments, and that this trend can be expected to continue throughout 2011," Senator Evans said in a speech at Canberra University yesterday.

Senator Evans admitted that enrolments in English courses, an indicator of demand for tertiary courses, were down and could signal a longer-term problem in the $18 billion dollar industry.
China is Australia's largest source of foreign students, accounting for 27 per cent of enrolments and a much higher proportion of university students. Senator Evans will fly to Beijing with university administrators next week to address the issues.

Senator Evans said an appreciating dollar, the steady increase in competition from other nations, the global financial crisis, and strengthened Australian visa integrity arrangements "have brought these issues to a head".

"While it is essential that the rules we apply for international students uphold the integrity of our immigration program, I am committed to working with international education providers to examine how we can make Australian education offerings more competitive when weighed against the offerings of other countries," he said.

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