Australian universities have welcomed the release of a long-awaited review of international student visa rules, saying that immigration reforms and the removal of tough financial requirements could give the sector a much-needed boost.
Falling international student numbers have badly hurt university coffers and many in the sector had hoped the Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011, conducted by Michael Knight and also known as the Knight Review, would recommend changes to attract more foreign students to Australia.
The report, released today, contains 41 recommendations, including that all students be treated as the same lower-risk assessment level (AL) regardless of their country of origin.
“Our consultations found that the financial requirements for student visas were too onerous, so we are reducing the financial requirements for some applicants, with students now needing around $36,000 less in the bank when applying for a visa,” Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.
“This reduction in the AL financial requirements will particularly assist a significant number of Vocational Education and Training and private education providers.”
Universities Australia CEO, Dr Glenn Withers described the report as a boon to the sector.
“The report’s recommendations have sensibly mirrored the views of the sector as articulated in the universities' submission to the Review,” he said.
“The changes proposed to visa requirements for students enrolled at Australian universities will help to maintain an internationally competitive international education sector that confirms Australia as an attractive higher education destination over the long term.”
The Group of Eight universities said new work visas and opportunities to stay on after graduation would attract more international students to Australia.
“The review has recognised that Australia’s universities are high quality, low risk providers, and changes to the risk framework send a clear message that Australian education providers are responsible for ensuring that they uphold quality,” said Go8 Chair, Professor Paul Greenfield.
“Risk assessment that recognises high quality providers will be a sound basis for the sector’s future development.”