Australia's new government is set to change its strict visa laws to attract more students from "high risk" countries like India and China.
According to the recommendations of the Review of the Student Visa Assessment Level Framework 2013 report which was released earlier this week, the Australian government is likely to streamline the student visa Assessment Level Framework (ALF).
One of the recommendations is to relax the financial requirements for student visa applicants from the AL (assesment level) 4 countries like India, Nepal and Pakistan.
"Assessment levels under the ALF would be reduced from five levels to three, while financial evidence for AL3 students would reduce from 18 months to 12 months, provided funds were from a close relative of the student applicant. This would mean students from a number of key markets would be able to apply for a student visa with up to A$40, 000 (approximately Rs.2.3 million) less in the bank," Australia's Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison said in a media release.
The AL review report, which was released by the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Michaelia Cash, has recommended that ALs 4 and 5 be scrapped.
The Australian education and training providers and other professionals engaged in the industry have, overall, welcomed the proposals to streamline the ALF. "This news comes as a great relief for students from AL4 countries," Moninder Singh, CEO of a Sydney college, told IANS. "For example, Indian students would be assessed at AL3 and funds required will be for 12 months only instead of 24 months." he explained.
"But the changes would have a negative impact on the AL3 (higher education sector) applicants from India as the funds for AL3 applicants would be required to be provided by a close relative of the visa applicant."
According to industry experts, the previous Australian government's strict student visa policies led to the closure of dozens of privately-owned colleges. The last four-five years have also seen a steep fall in enrollments from India, which continues to be Australia's second largest source of international students.
"The Labour government devastated small to medium vocational training colleges in its zeal to 'reform' the much-maligned international education sector," said Deepak Chopra, a Melbourne-based senior vocational training professional. Chopra's sentiment is shared by other professionals engaged in international education or related industries.
"At last some sanity has been restored to the student visa programme with major changes announced today regarding how student visas will be assessed," Karl Konrad, a registered migration agent, wrote in his newsletter Wednesday. "The last government was responsible for a wrecking ball approach to overseas student market so it is with great delight that we can report on these new changes," he added.
Even though the visa grant rate has increased dramatically - over 70 percent - for Indian students in the last financial year, the number of students commencing studies Down Under is still far from the levels reached in 2009.
According to the Department of Immigration statistics, in 2008-09, Indians accounted for one in five of all student visa applications lodged (22 percent) and granted (20 percent), but in 2010-11 this had reduced to 14 percent and 12 percent respectively. As of June 30, there were 30,403 Indian students in Australia.