The student visa programme in Australia is to be reviewed to make it more competitive with the views of the education sector being sought, it has been announced.
It comes as concerns grow about a steep fall in the number of overseas students arriving in Australia to study, many because of high costs.
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Chris Evans, have also announced a package of measures geared towards the international education sector.
There are concerns that as a result of the rising value of the Australian dollar, the ongoing impact of the global financial crisis in some countries, and growing competition from the United States, New Zealand and Canada for international students, that Australia is lagging behind in attracting overseas students.
The strategic review of the Australia student visa programme aims to give education providers and stakeholders an important opportunity to share their vision of the sector’s future.
‘The review is tasked with enhancing the continued competitiveness of the international education sector as well as strengthening the integrity of the student visa programme,’ Evans said.
The government has appointed the Hon Michael Knight AO to undertake the review, and to report to Bowen and Evans by the middle of 2011.
The government is also introducing a package of measures to streamline the visa application process for lower risk applicants. This includes reducing the student visa assessment levels from April 2011 as indicated in the recent assessment level review conducted by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).
As part of this decision, the higher education visa assessment levels for applicants from China and India will also be reduced. Rules will be refined to allow pre-paid boarding fees to be counted toward students’ cost of living requirements in their visa application.
It is also hoped that improved information exchanges between the Australia government and the international education sector will allow the sector to track emerging student visa trends.
The changes come as figures show that the number of new international students coming to Australia is falling. The numbers fell by more than 32,000 students, some 9.5%, as of the end of October, according to the latest available figures.