The Australian Financial Review scooped a story over the weekend, reporting that around 60 "low risk"” education providers are in line to be able to offer students the SVP arrangements. The article cites a draft report circulated by DIAC and a forum attended by institutions and government officials held in Sydney two weeks ago.
The report recommends that a select group of non-university providers posing low immigration risk be invited to opt in to the streamlined arrangements and outlines the manner in which such an extension would be implemented. The report suggests that the providers could be "identified assessing immigration risk data of visa applicants and visa holders in the past."
While extending the SVP arrangements to non-universities may help to increase the competitiveness of Australian international education, the report goes on to say that not all education providers will have the capacity to meet the added reporting and monitoring requirements that come along with it.
Even with the necessary facilities to report and process, smaller providers will not be able to access the SVP arrangements. DIAC has been advised that institutions require a minimum of 400 student visa-holders over a period of a year for an appropriate threshold at which visa compliance data can be statistically meaningful.
During the Sydney forum, participants were warned not to speak to media about this change. Whether the report in The Australian Financial Review will have any impact on further consultation in the process is undetermined.
Readers may remember in Issue 8 of the IEU that the Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) recommended an extension of SVP arrangements during its 13 April 2012 meeting. In its communiqué, COAG wrote "...COAG agreed to expedite the implementation of the revised framework for low immigration risk providers so that they are able to have access to streamlined student visa assessments in the second half of 2012."
The Australian reported that Australia could face further declines in international student numbers, as competition from around the world increases and Australia’s international student strategy stagnates. Using information from recent quantitative research for the HES, many sector leaders are uncertain that universities and governments understand what is needed to survive and grow in the international education market.
The research, conducted by EduWorld market research, interviewed a dozen respondents earlier this year from varying levels within universities, including a Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellors, Deans, Pro Vice-Chancellors and marketing and international services Directors.
Many are concerned that Australia will be left behind if a comprehensive strategy to increase internationalisation of the university system is not implemented. Adding further concerns, Allison Doorbar, managing director of EduWorld market research, said "I think there is concern, amongst at least some Australian institutions, that they may not have expertise, the resources, the research clout and the institution-wide commitment necessary to deliver."
One respondent commented, "We have our head in the sand... The whole world is changing and we are thinking about domestic issues and we don't keep track of what's going on around us. In five years we're going to say: 'what happened?'"
In addition to these concerns, the report also found that traditional competitors Britain, the US, Canada and New Zealand are ramping up their efforts and new markets are developing in previously traditional source countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, China and the Middle East.
Edudemic further cemented this idea in a recent report highlighting the top ten up-and-coming cities that threaten to disrupt international education worldwide. The list includes both cities that are attempting to increase their attractiveness to international students and cities that are increasing their efforts to retain their own students.
It appears that countries looking to retain students may be receiving a helping hand from Australian immigration officers, with The Australian reporting that education providers have complained that officers are rejecting applications and advising students to study at home.
Stephen Nagle, director of the Holmes Institute: "People are being told in visa rejections, 'don't come to Australia, stay where you are, it will be cheaper'."
The rejections involve the assessment of the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement introduced in November 2011. The GTE requirement allows a DIAC official to assess the genuineness of a student's intentions and determine the likelihood of them actually being a temporary entrant intending to return home after study.
The problem with the test, according to many providers, is that it is subjective. "It depends on who's processing your visa, it depends who's interviewing you," said Ingeborg Loon of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET).
According to providers, a second problem with the GTE is that its scope is too narrow, choosing to focus on whether an Australian education would benefit the career outcomes of a prospective student, especially in regards to studying English. Mr Nagel said "They should just be able to say, 'I want to learn English'. We are losing the market for people who just want to come to Australia for the sake of learning English."
As most countries already offer a similar type, if not level, of education, an immigration officer may reject an application based on a failure on the student's part to investigate study options available to them in their home country. Reportedly, this can extend to a student not thoroughly investigating all options available to them in Australia, or not researching a particular institution well enough to be able to explain how it differs from others.
ACPET’s Ingeborg Loon commented that the choices students make are not always based upon any particular evidence, saying "they might have a relative who studied at [the] college [they choose to study]." Requiring a student to undertake such a level of research could also encourage them to study in a country that doesn’t have such a requirement.
Perhaps the best summary of the situation comes from Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, comparing the new test to refusing visas to would-be tourists with the line, "you've got beaches in your country, why would you want to come to Australia?''.
In Issue 15 of the IEU, we surveyed our readers on whether institutions or DIAC should take responsibility for ensuring students are capable of studying in Australia. Two thirds of respondents said that institutions should certify that students have an appropriate level English language and evidence of suitable education qualifications rather than DIAC. This is in addition to 82.2% of agents in Korea and 84.3% of agents in China surveyed during recent agent workshops held by PIER.
One respondent from the issue 15 survey said "What are our admissions teams for if we don't do this part of the process?" but concluded by saying that they were more than happy to leave the financial part of the application to DIAC.
In light of The Australian Financial Review’s scoop, this issue’s survey will look at SVP arrangements. During the workshops in China and Korea, agents were also asked:
The SVP arrangements should be extended to other sectors.
70% of Korean agents and 90% of Chinese agents agreed with the idea. In Korea, those least in favour of extending the SVP arrangements to other sectors were managers. Being an AL 1 country, the GTE requirement actually increases the amount of work required by a student.
We would like to hear your thoughts. Do you think the SVP arrangements should be extended to other sectors and if so, which sectors?
A Canadian language college has launched awards recognising "premier" education agencies, reports The PIE News.
65% of study abroad decisions for Chinese students are made by the parents according to ICEF Monitor.
The Telegraph reports that two thirds of British universities are admitting students with poor English language proficiency.
Take walks, go on bicycle, field or camping trips, and attend parties, sporting events or film festivals, suggests Voice of America to international students looking to make friends with local students.
There are more than 1 million Chinese students studying abroad according to estimates reported in ICEF Monitor. With a population of 1.34 billion, the number of international students represents just over seven one hundredths of one percent (0.074%) of the total Chinese population.