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Edition 528, 14 October 2013

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Time for urgent action on international education

Monday, October 14 2013

Those of you who were at the AIEC conference last week in Canberra would no doubt have welcomed Minister Pyne’s opening speech outlining the Government’s clear commitment to revitalising the international education sector, and to restoring international education to its rightful place as one of our most valuable exports as a key priority.

In welcoming the Minister’s commitment, ACPET issued a media release calling on the Government to extend Streamlined Visa Processing arrangements to the non-university sector as a matter of urgency. 

Why push the issue when the Minister was clear that he sees this matter as a priority?

Sadly, the rumours swirling around the AIEC conference were loud enough to make it to me in Indonesia, where I was advised that a much reduced list of some 20 or so higher education institutions was being considered for release. If this rumour has any truth to it, this would be a (further) setback for the many VET, ELICOS and schools all with an outstanding record of delivery to international education students and with a strong visa compliance track record.

The criteria used by the Department of Immigration to ensure the universities had strong track records of visa compliance are publicly available, see page 15 of the Guidelines for University Participation in Streamlined Visa Processing.

It is my understanding that approximately 90 providers meet these criteria and are eligible to be invited to opt-in to SVP arrangements. It is this list of providers, and the transparent criteria used to compile the list, that ACPET is calling on the government to release urgently.

I’ve included some extracts from our media release below, which emphasise the ongoing cost of delays in implementing promised change within the sector and our desire to work closely and cooperatively with the Government to restore international education to its role as a driver of economic and cultural prosperity. This point was well made by ACPET Deputy Chair, Mel Koumides, during his address to the AIEC conference, where he stressed that the government must work with the sector in a transparent and inclusive manner, and that specifically this includes the development of a fit for purpose framework that can identify low risk providers regardless of the size of their operations or their focus on VET, ELICOS, schooling, or higher education.

It is essential that the Government moves quickly to announce extended Streamlined Visa Processing arrangements and to respond to the other recommendations of the Australia – Educating Globally report as soon as possible, recognising that the key to the success of any policy or strategy lies in its implementation.

The last two years have seen attempts to rectify this situation (of significant decline).  While welcome in some parts of the international education industry, changes to date have been less than optimal.  The result has been that the non-university higher education sector is operating well below its potential with the VET sector’s international education provision at only 40 per cent capacity.

International education in Australia is at a critical turning point. Other nations have all capitalised in recent years on Australia’s fragmented, unhurried approach to managing a crucial transition in international education. As a result one of Australia’s leading industries is shrinking, resulting in fewer jobs for Australians, reduced economic activity in a predominately flat Australian economy and diminished opportunity to build relations with our neighbours throughout Asia.    

In order to ensure the future success of Australia’s international education industry, ACPET calls on the Government to urgently implement a national strategy, including the extension of SVP through a risk based and transparent framework.   

The sector has worked tirelessly to overcome quality issues that caused damage to Australia’s international education standing over recent years. ACPET welcomes Minister Pyne’s commitment to work closely with the sector as outlined today at the AIEC conference. We look forward to timely implementation of the Minister’s commitments. 

Claire Field
Chief Executive Officer


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