THE RECENT changes in Australia’s student visa requirements are expected to usher in an image makeover to the country’s besieged international education sector that has been sullied by allegations of racism and fraud.
Nowhere was this optimism more evident than in an event in the Capital last week where officials from Australia’s Central Queensland (CQ) University announced a tie- up with Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar, and the NGO Salam Balak Trust.
Scott Bowman, vice-chancellor and president of CQ University, said in an interview that the enrollment of Indian students in Australian universities had picked up after the drop that followed in the wake of the racial attacks on their peers in Melbourne.
“There was a dip in the number of Indian students in the wake of the attacks but it’s getting back to normal now,” said Bowman, who was accompanied by Rennie Fritschy, the university’s chancellor. The newly announced visa rule changes are expected to hasten this process.
The policy changes aimed at enhancing Australia’s competitiveness in the international education sector are also expected to result in easier and faster visas for genuine Indian students who get admission into academic programmes in universities Down Under.
Students enrolled in bachelor’s degree or higher-level courses will be treated, under the new visa rules, as lower- risk applicants regardless of their country of origin. This will mean fewer onerous financial and documentary requirements for students in this category.
But the visa process is going to be tougher for students going for vocational courses, especially those enrolled with private education providers, although the financial requirements have been reduced even for them.
The changes announced by the Australian government are expected to take effect by the end of 2011.
The upside of the new rules is that they allow for a two-to-four-year post-study work visa for university graduates depending on the academic level they have crossed.
Australia, Bowman clarified, isn’t looking for an exponential increase in the number of foreign students. “We are interested in quality students,” he said, adding that Information Technology and Business were the two most sought-after courses at the university.
The 20-year-old university with campuses across Australia, except Tasmania, has around 1,400 Indian students. The Good Universities Guide, Australia’s widely accepted university ranking system, CQ figures among the country’s top 14 universities for its ‘quality of teaching’ and has a five-star rating in parameters such as ‘graduate starting salary’. Universities such as these now hope to rescue their image sullied in the Indian market because of the incidents in Melbourne.