Streamlined Visa Processing for International Students in Australia Hit by Row
There are calls in Australia for a quality rating to be introduced when immigration officials determine whether a university of college is entitled to streamlined visa processing.
The Productivity Commission has backed the call from the international education industry amid concerns over document fraud, bribery, cheating and poor academic standards.
Claims that quality is being compromised comes at a time when more international students are applying for visas to study in Australia. Indeed, the latest data from the Australian ¬Bureau of Statistics show that in the year to March, international students contributed a record $17.5 billion to the economy, the highest since 2009.
A recent report from the Productivity Commission on international education warned that streamlined visa processing is perceived by potential students as a stamp of quality and warned that the system created ‘perverse incentives such as students using SVP to get a visa and hopping into an easier or cheaper course.
The Commission says that such practices have the potential to undermine the integrity of the visa system at a time when attracting and retaining good international students is important to Australia’s economy.
‘Competition for international students is intensifying. If Australia wants to remain an attractive destination we will need education providers to provide learning experiences that respond to students’ expectations. Governments, too, need to ensure that our broader immigration and education policy settings also support this objective,’ said Commissioner Paul Lindwall.
The report finds that the sustainability of international education is more closely linked to regulatory settings than many other sectors. The regulatory settings around the quality of education and around student visas are both crucial to the sustainability of Australia’s international education sector.
It points out that it is crucial that education and immigration are synchronised and coherent so that Australia can best take advantage of opportunities in this sector as sometimes changes in policy in one area can have unintended consequences in the other.
It also points out that Australian institutions rely heavily on agents to attract students and while agents can be an important part of marketing education, institutions should actively reduce their use of agents and rely more on direct recruitment.
‘The quality of the education that Australia provides is of course paramount to students deciding whether they wish to study here. It is important that they have reasonable expectations as to the institutions and courses on offer,’ explained Lindwall.
Australia’s share of the global international education market is only around 6% but it has one of the highest concentration of international students in total national tertiary enrolments, with around 20% of total students enrolled in higher education coming from overseas.
There were more than 450,000 international students on a student visa in Australia in 2014. Another 160,000 were enrolled in programmes delivered by Australian institutions abroad.
The Productivity Commission has suggested that the quality of providers be made more explicit by a public rating system overseen by TEQSA and ASQA while being explicit that visa processing was a separate immigration issue.
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