• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Further international student reductions seen in Australia amid global change

Anticipate further international student reductions in Australia amid global change

International student numbers in Australia may continue to decline due to the implementation of a new migration strategy aimed at reducing migration levels amidst concerns over housing shortages and worrying stakeholders.

Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a more than one-third decline in student visa applications and approvals over the 12 months to February.

Prospective university students are reportedly being told to withdraw their applications before receiving visa approvals from the Department of Home Affairs due to concerns about meeting new requirements.

Applicants will now need to answer questions regarding expected study benefits, family and community ties, and reasons for choosing Australia as their study destination.

Applicants for vocational courses may face difficulties in demonstrating the value of their studies through the genuine student test, as Australian VET qualifications often lack broad global recognition, unlike university degrees.

The changes will affect vocational education providers more than higher education providers.

“If the genuine student test is implemented as it is discussed in the migration strategy, it will definitely see a huge drop in numbers in the VET sector,“ said Claire Fields education consultant.

The strategy includes measures to suspend education providers targeting international students to combat “ghost colleges” where students receive minimal education and engage in low-paid work. High-risk providers will receive warning notices, with six months to improve or face closure.

Australia’s plans to reduce migration by limiting student numbers align with similar strategies adopted elsewhere, reflecting shifting geopolitics and a trend away from globalization in recent years.

“The fact that reductions in numbers are now taking place indicates a common response to nativist, anti migration pressures. Commercial providers in Canada, the UK and Australia have all introduced visa regimes that are substantially reducing the inward flow of students,” said Simon Marginson professor of higher education at the University of Oxford .

While housing shortages and public facility use by students and dependents may have a tangible basis in Australia and Canada, they could have been cited at any point in the past, suggesting broader geopolitical shifts driving current migration strategies.

“A radical change to the conditions of cross border collaboration and international education is underway,” he said.

“The fact that the reductions in student visa numbers are now taking place indicates a new willingness to give priority to border security over international trade.”

Abul Rizvi immigration expert highlighted that the government’s focus on overseas students from a net migration perspective is new, attributing efforts to reduce numbers to the exceptionally high levels observed post-pandemic.

“In 2022/23 student contribution to net migration was still a very high 51.7% – that is a 267,000 student contribution of a record net migration of 518,000,” said Rizvi.

“We’ve never been at those levels and now the government has decided that net migration, long term, should be reduced to 235,000 per annum.”

To achieve the target, only 40,000 students can contribute to net migration annually. Student visa rejections have risen due to subjective decisions made by immigration officials using the current genuine temporary entrant test, and these refusal rates are unlikely to change with the implementation of key elements of the migration strategy on March 23.

The implementation of a genuine student test aims to identify individuals suspected of intending to work rather than study in Australia. “refusal rates will just be based on different subjective criteria, albeit a slightly better one”, said Rizvi.

Since the release of the migration strategy in December last year, more students have faced visa rejections, prompting education providers to hastily prepare for the forthcoming new requirements.