Australian enrolments plummet

June 2010

 

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Media reports are tracking the impact of tightened immigration rules on international enrolments

Australia’s largest international student recruiter says changes to visa rules and priority skills are hammering student demand and the sector’s market standing is at risk.

The recruiter, IDP, says the Rudd government’s sudden tightening of immigration requirements left the sector with no time to adjust.

Chief executive Tony Pollock says international placements into Australia across IDP’s network were down 37 per cent in April compared with a year ago, with current Indian demand almost wiped out. He says the Australian High Commissioner in India told recruiters there the number of student visa applications it had on hand had crashed to just 200 from 8600 a year ago.

Verifying the numbers isn’t easy, but the Department of Immigration’s latest application figures for the nine months to the end of March 31 show that applications from Indian nationals were down 47 per cent at 23,601.

Pollock says further negative fallout is expected as more students are stranded by private college collapses caused by the downturn, and frustration grows among the thousands of students already enrolled in courses culled from the Skilled Occupations List that provides a pathway for permanent residency.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans has tightened visa requirements to a narrower range of skills to clamp down on rorts and student exploitation.

These include ‘visa factories’ or dodgy courses in areas like hairdressing, cookery and community welfare focused solely on permanent residency.

International education is Australia’s third largest export earner behind coal and iron ore, at about $17 billion a year. International student fees have become a key revenue source for universities following declines in government funding, accounting for more than 15 per cent of revenue.

According to Pollock, the government’s desire to clean up the industry is laudable, but done so quickly there was little time for the structural adjustment necessary for the students and institutions.

The Department of Immigration changes to a demand-driven immigration programme had been signaled as far back as early 2008. The aim was to remove incentives for students to seek permanent residence through low-quality education courses.

International students have been protesting changes to the skills list. So far this year, 15 private colleges have already closed, affecting 3713 students, of which only 57 per cent have been placed at other providers or given refunds.

The latest government figures show international student enrolments rose by just 0.3 per cent in the nine months to March, compared with average growth rate over the past eight years of 8.6 per cent. While enrolments at universities were up 11.8 per cent, they were down in the vocational and English language sectors that are key feeders for universities.

Source – The Australian