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Edition 494, 18 February 2013

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From the International Desk

Monday, February 18 2013

In our December issue of ‘From the International Desk’ we expressed our disappointment in the delay in the announcement of the Assessment Level Framework Review outcome. Since then there have been some interesting announcements by the Federal Government but, very regrettably, none relating to improved student visa conditions for the non-university sectors.

This is a very serious issue both for providers as well as for the nation as a whole, as the statistics in the recently released Deloitte Access Economics report on the Economic contribution of international students attest, emphasized by the accompanying ACPET media release.  The report stresses the continuing decline in the sector’s export income of almost $2 billion per annum since 2009, an enormous hit to a vital sector that contributes almost 130,000 jobs to the economy as highlighted by the Australian Financial Review article

The delay in implementing the important Knight Review recommendation of extending streamlined visa processing arrangements beyond the university sector has contributed to this decline.  This was made even more apparent by the recent DIAC statistics on student visa applications and grants finally released last week.  The decline in offshore visa applications for the VET sector compared to the university sector is staggering and serves to highlight the disparity in policy settings for the different sectors within international education.

In the December 2012 quarter, grants for higher education visas increased 26% while VET visa grants decreased by 17% compared to the same period in 2011. Higher education visas have been driving the offshore growth for the last three comparative quarters.  ACPET was quoted in another AFR article in which Independent Senator Nick Xenophon confronted the government over the same delays while The Australian last week also wrote about Australia’s fourth-largest export industry continuing its decline.

As well as engaging with the media on this, and other student visa matters such as post-study work rights for the VET sector and the contentious Genuine Temporary Entrant criterion, ACPET has been busily pounding the corridors of Parliament House, writing submissions and attending meetings with government departments on behalf of our internationally-active membership.

ACPET’s CEO, Claire Field, last week met with the new Minister for Tertiary Education and Skills, Chris Bowen, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Sussan Ley and the Victorian Minister with carriage of international education, Louise Asher.  ACPET has requested a meeting with the new Minister for Immigration, Brendan O’Connor, and has asked his office to clarify what kind of information will be given at the DIAC information sessions on changes to the student visa program to be held at the end of March. 

International Engagement Manager, Ingeborg Loon, met with Shadow Minister for Universities and Research, Senator Brett Mason, Treasury department officials and briefed Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Shadow Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne on the key international issues affecting our sector.

Politicians on both sides are particularly interested in ACPET’s Pre-Budget Submission 2013-2014 which includes the need to extend SVP and other measures to support non-universiy providers.

At the recent Education Visa Consultative Committee meeting, apart from discussions about SVP in particular, DIAC clarified the eligibility criteria for the Post-Study Work Visas which has been posted on the DIAC website.  DIAC confirmed that student visa refusals on the basis of GTE are officially only 2.3% but, to the consternation of ACPET and other peak bodies, the department can’t provide a breakdown per sector or country as to where the criterion might be hitting hardest.

We once again encourage our members to continue with their own local and federal advocacy efforts on these international matters.


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