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Australian student visa applications on the rise

New streamlined visa processes sees international student numbers grow

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Australia has been affirmed as one of the world’s most favoured study abroad destinations with the amount of student visa applications the highest in four years.

Over 74,000 international students applied for a visa within the three months preceding September 2013, marking a 7.1% increase from the previous year. 2012-2013 enrolments increased notably from India (7%), Nepal (29%) and Vietnam (42%). The boost is hoped to signal the end of a three-year slump in international student enrolments. 

Since the decline, immigration reforms have called for lower processing fees and financial requirements in obtaining a visa, as well as asking that all international students be considered at the same level of migration risk.

Greg Evans, Deputy Chief Executive of Universities Australia has welcomed the changes, naming the increase in student visa applications ‘encouraging,’ and indicative of potential.

‘These welcome figures reflect both improved regulatory and visa conditions provided by the government as well as the tireless efforts of our universities,’ he told The Guardian.

Since 2012, implementation of a ‘streamlined visa processing’ system for prospective students applying to participating, ‘trusted’ institutions has seen a rise in enrolment figures. Students must have a Confirmation of Enrolment from one of these universities to qualify for the process, and are assessed upon the lowest level of migration risk regardless of their country of origin.

The current Australian government will extend the streamlined system to an additional 22 higher education institutions, taking up to AUD40,000 off the required finances of a prospective international student. Immigration laws currently require applicants considered ‘high risk’ to prove they have access to a large amount of funds before they are allowed to study at an Australian institution.

Peaking in 2009, the amount of international students comprised 22% of all students in Australia, before slumping considerably until 2011. The strong Australian dollar and tighter immigration regulations were cited as partial explanations for the decline. The number of Chinese students studying abroad in Australia also dropped significantly due to the high cost of living.

The slump followed findings in the 2011 Knight Report, in which certain institutions were seen to be charging international students high fees for courses with no discernible educational purpose, but with the premise of leading to permanent residency.

‘There were some unscrupulous education agents on impossibly high commissions, funnelling students with fraudulent documents into any course irrespective of the quality of the course or student,’ government reviewer Michael Knight wrote in his report.  As a result, the Australian government tightened tertiary entry restrictions for international students, including proof of access to up to AUD18, 000 per year of study.

From 2011-2012, the drop in international student numbers was estimated to put the nation almost AUD3 billion out of pocket.  With higher education a key national export, a number of initiatives were put in place to boost interest in the sector.

A recent report by the International Education Advisory Council is optimistic about the future of Australian higher education, estimating a 5% increase in enrolments per year.   At this rate, the number of international students in Australia is predicted to rise by 30% by 2020.

 

 

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About Author

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.

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