Australia to relax student visa norms

 | December 17,2010 11:07 am IST

Australia is considering relaxing its student visa norms after complaints that it does not process applications fast enough thereby causing international students, including from India and China, to go elsewhere, a media report said Thursday.


The federal government has bowed to pressure from the country's tertiary institutions over international student visa criteria, The Age reported on its website.


Critics say that the delay in processing student visas has hurt the international students market in the country.

Announcing a review of student visas Wednesday, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans conceded that changes were necessary to prop up the ailing sector, worth $4.5 billion to Victoria state each year.


The most recent international student figures show a 1.4 percent decline in enrolments since December last year - in stark comparison to the past eight years, in which the sector grew 11 percent a year.


"The Australian international education sector has come under increasing pressure 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," Senator Evans said.


New measures to shore up student numbers include: Reducing assessment levels from April 2011, including the higher education visa assessment levels for applicants from China and India.


Refining the rules to further enable pre-paid boarding fees to be counted towards cost-of-living requirements.

Publishing statistics quarterly to allow the sector to track emerging student visa trends.


"Well over 20 percent of Monash University's students on Australian campuses are international students, with China being the largest source country," Monash vice-chancellor Ed Byrne said.


"The downgrading in the assessment level will mean that not only are the financial requirements less onerous on Chinese families, but it signals that we have a good relationship with China in the delivery of higher education."


Universities Australia chairman professor Peter Coaldrake welcomed the changes and said he hoped the review would "provide a fresh start to our approach to the international student market, which is now suffering after having made such tremendous gains in the past".


Senator Evans said the review would consider ways to "better manage immigration risk" and recommend ways to improve partnerships between education providers and visa-processing arrangements.


Headed by former NSW minister for the Sydney Olympics Michael Knight, the review is scheduled to report back to Senator Evans and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen by mid-2011.