The Tony Abbott government in Australia is all set to change its strict visa laws in an attempt to attract more students from key source but "high risk" countries such as India and China. With steep fall in the number of student enrolments from India in the last five years, this move is said to be an effort to recapture the vast global education market.
Assessment Level Framework (ALF) reviewed
Going by the recommendations of the Review of the Student Visa Assessment Level Framework 2013 report released recently; the Australian government is expected to restructure the student visa Assessment Level Framework (ALF).
A key suggestion is to relax the financial requirements clause for student visa applicants from the AL4 countries. These assessment level countries include India, Nepal and Pakistan.
"Assessment levels under the ALF would be reduced from five levels to three, while financial evidence for AL3 students would reduce from 18 months to 12 months, provided funds were from a close relative of the student applicant. This would mean students from a number of key markets would be able to apply for a student visa with up to A$40, 000 (approximately Rs.2.3 million) less in the bank," Australia's Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison said in a press release. The Assessment Level review report also recommended the scrapping of ALs 4 and 5.
Industry welcomes the move
Calling it a major relief for international students, industry professionals, education and training providers have welcomed the proposal to streamline the ALF.
"This news comes as a great relief for students from AL4 countries," Moninder Singh, CEO of a Sydney college, was quoted by IANS.
"For example, Indian students would be assessed at AL3 and funds required will be for 12 months only instead of 24 months." he explained.
"But the changes would have a negative impact on the AL3 (higher education sector) applicants from India as the funds for AL3 applicants would be required to be provided by a close relative of the visa applicant," he said.
Industry experts believe attempts by the previous Labor government of Kevin Rudd to implement strict student visa policies resulted in the shutting-down of several privately-owned colleges in the country.
"The Labour government devastated small to medium vocational training colleges in its zeal to 'reform' the much-maligned international education sector," Deepak Chopra, a Melbourne-based senior vocational training professional was quoted as saying.
Government effort is understandable, as recent figures released by the Department of Immigration indicate a sharp fall in the number of student enrolments from India in the past five years.
The visa grant rate has, increased dramatically with over 70 percent of the Indian student applicants receiving their student visas. The number of students seeking to study in Australia, however, continues to be far below the 2009 level.
Despite this falling trend, however, India remains Australia’s second largest source nation for international student enrolments, the Immigration Department report said.