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New Oz policy to win back Indian students

After the attacks on Indian students that attracted media attention worldwide leading to a decrease in the number of international students applying in its universities, the Australian government has begun the implementation of the Knight Review Changes to the Student Visa Programme.

As the international education sector is one of Australia's largest export industries and key to bilateral ties with key partner countries like India, the implementation of the student visa programme is seen as a the way forward to win back the confidence of the Indian student community.

In December 2010, Michael Knight was asked to conduct the first strategic review of the student visa programme to help enhance the quality, integrity and competitiveness of the student visa programme.

He submitted 41 recommendations to the Australian government in June 2011. After discussion, the Australian government has begun implementation of the stage one of the recommendations since November 5.

To start with, the Australian government has reduced the financial requirements for higher risk assessment level 3 and 4 student visa applicants. This in effect means that students who are subject to these two levels will need to pay approximately AUD 36,000 less in the bank when applying for a visa. This reduction in financial requirement is expected to benefit the non-university sector in particular. Applicants for the vocational education and training and private education sectors in particular will benefit from this change.

Another key recommendation, in fact, the first recommendation of the Knight Review programme, is that a new element be introduced into the eligibility criteria for a student visa. This new criterion will be to assess whether the applicant is a genuine temporary entrant which will be considered first in assessing any application for a student visa.

This requirement is to help the government reduce the migration risk and maintain the integrity of the student visa programme. It will enable the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to better assess student visa applications to ensure the applicant's main aim is a temporary stay in Australia.

Student visa applicants will be assessed on whether their individual circumstances indicate that their main aim is for a temporary stay in Australia. Applicants seeking to exploit the student visa programme, for example, those whose main purpose is to work will have their applications refused. Student visa holders who have completed their studies and not obtained a further visa will be required to depart Australia.

English language students

English language students will benefit from another change that is now in place, allowing students to apply for a visa without first meeting minimum English skills requirements. The government has made English language study in Australia more accessible by removing the English language test requirements for higher risk Assessment Level 4 and above stand-alone English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) visa applicants. This change also took effect on November 5.

Some of the other changes which commenced on November 5 are increasing the visa period of all new Postgraduate Research visa grants by six months to allow for interactive marking of a thesis; allowing prepaid fees for formal homestay arrangements through education providers to be included in the financial requirements assessment for a student visa and discontinuing pre-visa assessment (PVA) policy to help speed up visa processing.

Post-study work period

One of the Knight recommendations agreed by the Australian government on November 30 was the introduction of new post-study work arrangements for Australian university graduates.

As per Knight Review recommendations, all graduates of an Australian university bachelor degree, who have spent at least two academic years studying that degree in Australia, and who have complied with their visa conditions, should receive two years work rights. Students of Masters by Coursework degree, on successful completion of their course, will also get two years work rights. As per the recommendations, Masters by Research graduates should receive three years post-study work rights and Ph.D graduates four years. Graduates must complete their qualifications as a result of meeting the Australian study requirement which requires at least two academic years' study in Australia, the government said defining `academic study' with specifications.

According to Australian government's Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the government supports in principle all of Knight's (41) recommendations, but, some recommendations will be modified in places to enhance the performance of Australian education sector and to better safeguard the integrity of the visa system. The department's website states that the majority of the stage two Knight Review changes are proposed to be implemented by mid-2012 with some other changes proposed to commence in early 2013.

Source: The Hindu

Wednesday , 14   December , 2011