Australia has recently garnered international attention for tightening its study visa rules for international students. These changes entail a 17% increase in the financial requirements for study visa applications and the elimination the dual-study program for international students. At the dawn of 2023, Australia also revised the maximum working hours for international students. These measures reflect Australia’s concerted efforts to address vulnerabilities in the study visa system and curb fraudulent activities.
Notably, international education stands as the third-largest contributor to the Australian economy. In 2022 alone, international students injected more than $25 billion into the country’s economic landscape. Given the substantial impact of international students on Australia’s economy, it becomes crucial to comprehend why Australia is enacting these changes and what consequences may ensue.
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Rise in Savings Requirement for Australian Study Visa Application:
While applying for a study visa, applicants must provide evidence of financial support to ensure financial stability. This can include bank balances, owned assets, and a stable income source from the applicant or their family. These funds are expected to cover travel expenses, tuition, and living costs during the applicant’s stay.
Different countries impose varying minimum financial support thresholds for successful study visa applications. Australia has maintained a threshold of AUD 21,041 since 2019. However, the government plans to increase this amount by 17% to AUD 24,505 (USD 15,693), effective October 1, 2023. This decision aligned with current inflation rates, as the threshold had remained unchanged since 2019.
Abolition of the Dual-Study Programme:
The dual-study or concurrent study program was a government initiative in Australia operating under the Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS). This program allowed international students to pursue dual courses to enhance their skills for better job prospects. However, it contained a significant loophole.
Initially designed to supplement existing studies, some students utilised this program to change their courses without a specified minimum time requirement. Consequently, students switched to less expensive and less prestigious courses shortly after arriving in the country. This practice contravened Australian study visa regulations because the course initially chosen for entry did not align with their long-term plans.
In response to this issue, the Australian government has removed the dual-study program for international students during the first six months of their course enrollment. These changes have been implemented under the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (National Code).
This decision aims to tackle fraud at its source, eliminating the possibility of fraudulent practices- as noticed in the case of 700 Indian students who used fake study visa documents to enter Canada. The minimum six-month requirement will prevent study visa consultants from initially listing courses on visa applications only to change them to cheaper alternatives from different universities later.
Drivers of Policy Change:
The decision to increase the minimum savings requirement stems from the inadequacy of the previous financial threshold to account for the recent economic inflation. The policy has remained unchanged since 2019 and needed adjustment to align with the rising economic conditions.
The discontinuation of the concurrent study scheme was prompted by a recent investigation conducted by the Australian Government into the scheme’s statistics. According to data released by the Australian government, the scheme saw a significant increase in enrollments, with 17,000 in the first half of 2023. This figure surpasses the combined annual enrollments of nearly 10,000 students in 2019 and 2022.
These alarming statistics triggered an internal investigation revealing widespread misuse of the scheme by education providers and students.
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Impact of Changes:
Increase in Minimum Savings Requirement:
- Positive Impact: The increase in the minimum savings requirement reflects the government’s effort to ensure that international students have sufficient financial resources to support themselves during their studies. This can help prevent students from struggling to cover their living expenses and tuition fees, which can lead to financial hardship.
- Negative Impact: However, this change may deter some potential students, particularly those from lower and upper-middle-class backgrounds, as they may find it challenging to meet the higher financial threshold. This could potentially lead to a decrease in international students coming to Australia.
Discontinuation of Concurrent Study Scheme:
- Positive Impact: Discontinuing the concurrent study scheme aims to curb program misuse by students and education providers. This will help maintain the integrity of the study visa system and ensure that students are genuinely pursuing their intended courses.
- Negative Impact: The abrupt discontinuation of the program may disrupt the plans of some international students with legitimate intentions to engage in dual courses to enhance their skills. These students will now need to adapt their study plans accordingly.
Impact on Influx of International Students:
The changes can be seen as a positive step in protecting the interests of international students and maintaining the quality of education in Australia. The changes enhance the country’s reputation as a destination for high-quality education.
However, too frequent changes might lead to declining international students entering Australia. The increased financial requirements and discontinuation of the dual-study scheme may deter some students, especially those from middle-class backgrounds, who may struggle to meet the new financial demands. However, it’s worth noting that the pre-pandemic enrollment levels are already showing signs of recovery, especially with increased enrollments from countries like China and India.
International students in Australia by Origin Country (Top four) (2022)
|Country of Origin||Number of students studying in Australia|
With over 619,000 international students studying in Australia, the number of enrollments in the country increased by 8.2% in 2022 compared to the previous year’s numbers. But the frequent transformations in the policies might scare away students from Australia- as estimated in the case of the UK- which plans to restrict students from bringing families along during the post-graduation courses starting next year.
In summation, the new and reformed international policies intensify the Australian Government’s efforts to curb the crimes against international students, maintaining optimum student comfort. However, the frequent reforms also demand added financial investment to enter Australia and limit the option of multiple-skill training for the students.
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