Visa program changes driving student intake in Australia

CHANGES to Australia’s student visa program could be driving recent growth in international student intake, which has risen for the first time from 2008-2009 levels. Yoanita Marcelia reports.

Visa program changes driving student intake in Australia

The Federal Government’s report on Australian Migration Trends 2011-2012 reported that more than 253,000 student visas were granted in the past financial year, the first increase since 2008-2009.

Recent changes in migration notably included a number of reforms recommended in the Knight Review of the Student Visa Program, including the introduction of streamlined visa processing. Under this system, eligible students are asked to fulfil fewer requirements and are assessed as a lower risk category.

More recently, the government also announced changes to the Temporary Skilled Graduate (subclass 485) Visa, which now allows overseas graduates to work for up to four years in Australia after successful completion of their degree.

Malaysian student Ryan Wong, who is studying a Bachelor of Commerce, thinks the prospect of post-study work would be a great boost for Australia’s workforce and for attracting potential students.

“The minimum wage in Australia is exceptionally high and the possibility to stay here for up to four years will definitely increase the student intake coming into Australia,” Ryan said.

Recent findings from the International Student Survey 2012 have also shed light on other reasons why overseas students are choosing to study in Australia.

The report, released by Australian Education International in April 2013 found that one of the most attractive factors of Australia’s higher education sector is the quality of teaching.

If you graduate from a Malaysian university, it’s not very recognisable in the eyes of a lot of employers, so it would be better if one studies overseas – Ryan Wong, University of Western Australia

Reputation of the Australian education system, the institution and its qualifications, and personal safety also ranked highly among respondents.

Visa program changes driving student intake in Australia

Ryan, who initially considered the UK as another potential study destination, confirms that he decided on the University of Western Australia in Perth based on its reputation.

“If you graduate from a Malaysian university, it’s not very recognisable in the eyes of a lot of employers, so it would be better if one studies overseas,” he said.

For Malaysian student Alex Osborne, a factor influencing his choice was the distance between countries.

Alex also considered studying in the UK, but eventually settled for Australia.

“It is closer than the UK because the UK is like a 13 hour flight whereas Australia is only seven to eight hours, so I decided I’m closer to home, and it’s a lovely country,” he said.

Malaysian institutions in particular also have links and transfer programs to Australia.

Alex studied at Monash University’s Malaysian campus for a year and a half before transferring to Monash in Melbourne.

“There are a few transfer programs for the US and the UK, but there are a lot for Australia,“ he said.

Overall, the survey found 88 per cent of the international students who responded were satisfied with their living and learning experiences in Australia.

Almost 80 per cent of respondents said they would encourage others to apply for university study here.

Both Ryan and Alex believe the student numbers will increase in the coming years with the new visa reforms, but would be gradual rather than exponential.

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