“Planned Vacuum” is the anxiety. Not the new Aussie Immigration Changes.

Australia revamped and put into immediate implementation on 8th Feb 2010, the revised Skills Migration Program, throwing thousands of onshore and offshore students into an unexplainable confusion due to the “vacuum”. Every country has the right to plan its own future and to decide on who fits the bill to reside in that country but what happened through the announcement was that there are many who would not know for several months whether they meet the requirements or not. And this is the concern. If unplanned, then I wonder the carelessness. If planned, then I wonder the reason.

I am borrowing the term “Planned Vacuum” from Mr Andrew Smith of ACPET as I think this describes the current state best. (Andrew has been quoted describing using this phrase). Ideally, the Australian Government should have announced the changed Point Test and the new SOL at this time itself. What we are told is that a new SOL will be announced a few months later. Whatever be the SOL, nobody will be able to plan without knowing the new point test, which only be told to us by mid 2010.

While the critics of the earlier program and so called commentators on migration policies are falling head over heels to be the first to provide their comments on the usefulness of the proposals making them sounds futuristic. If we go through the comments on the websites, even the general public is of the opinion that the “delinking of education from migration” will help the country.

I find all this misplaced imagination and without basis.

An academic reading of the proposals by myself and a qualified Migration expert, Krishan Poria, bring us to the following conclusion: PR possibly remains an option for students, The students who will meet the new demand occupations as listed through higher points in new and proposed SOL. Visa 485, which allowed the students the 18 months work, will continue and this is good news. Students will have option to move to this visa and then following experience onshore should be able to find pathways to migration and settlement. Genuine and qualified students stand to benefit.

  1. Revocation of the Migration Occupations in Demand List.MODL doesn’t apply now so no points. Though most of the students were not using this but can be a big impact for offshore applications. Not on international students following the 2008 changes.
  2. Abolition of the Critical Skills List.- Critical list will go away in Mid 2010. This is nothing to do with points and makes no difference.
  3. The introduction of a new Skilled Occupations List in mid 2010.need to wait for new SOL but all students having student visa before these changes can apply for Graduate skill visa but for PR they need to go for new SOL. I dont expect many changes in SOL but there might be few occupations where points can be lowered.
  4. A quota being placed on pre-1 September 2007 offshore applications with applications not coming within the quota being “terminated’ and the filing fee refunded. – This is only for offshore application so students who have applied for onshore applications are safe.
  5. Changes to priority processing.This doesn’t mean much other than processing time.
  6. A review of the points testthis means that they might change points for certain things, need to wait and see.
  7. Allowing pre-1 January 2010 trades skills assessments to be used for General Skilled Migration applications so the holders of such assessments will not be required to undertake the Job Ready Program. – this is really good news and means that students who have skill assessment from TRA can apply onshore PR based on that instead of going for Job Ready Program.

I therefore summarize that the education as a possible pathway to migration still continues.  And this is good. For example, I do expect certain students who study engineering to be able move to either direct migration or after gaining some work exp in OZ. How is this different than what we had earlier. Maybe the difference is focus away from vocational skills to academic programs. But is this good for OZ????

Hence we are in a few months of “planned vacuum”. What purpose will this serve except for creating anxiety in the mind of several “Rhodes scholars” from “leading Universities” whom the Minister wants to make the future immigrant to Australia?

To understand the mind of the minister, I took a look at the speech Minister Chris Evans delivered at the Australian National University on the day the immigration changes were announced and I quote:

“Evidence shows that the best way of doing that it is to select those most likely to quickly secure skilled work: on the basis of their knowledge and experience and proficiency in English.

I am not confident that the current test is selecting the best. For example, a Rhodes Scholar would not pass the points test if he or she took a degree in chemistry or mathematics or economics. On the other hand there are several occupations – cooks and hairdressers come to mind – where international students can study in Australia, acquire qualifications in the space of 92 weeks, and be on the road to permanent residence shortly thereafter.

I am therefore instituting a review of the points test with the following considerations in mind:
  • should some occupations warrant more points than others?
  • are the points for age properly calibrated?
  • should points be awarded for qualifications acquired overseas from prestigious universities?
  • are sufficient points awarded for experience?
  • should more points be awarded for excellence in English?”
Minister, I understand your goals and actually appreciate it too. This is what I had argued way back in 2006 at a presentation at the Town Hall in Melbourne and which I have already blogged on earlier including sharing the slides and if you look at the slides you will find me in sync with you.

However, I only wonder as to why you did not complete the review of the Point Test and the new SOL at this time itself.  One shot announcement and all together would have saved all of us from unnecessary anxiety.

International Education as a pathway to Global settlement / Migration:

Over the last eight months there has been careless references to the ills of the current situation with Indian students in Melbourne being the “linkage between Migration and Education” and find in dismay that even the knowledgeable tend to ascribe it to be unique to Australia. This is a ridiculous understanding of the student mobility around the world.

Whenever this was stated, I have pointed out that this is not unique to Australia at all.
  • 95% of Indian students going to the USA, have had work/settlement in mind when they board the flight from India. This is regardless of what they tell the interviewing visa officers at the consulates. They know that after their degrees they would opt for OPT, then apply for H1B visas and follow that up with Green Cards. I would like to remind that a clear impact of reduction of H1B quota from 200,000 to 60,000 was felt in 2002 on the student numbers choosing USA. USA then increased the quota by 20,000 and reserved it for the International students post their studies in USA.
  • The growth of UK as a destination too has had the role played by post study work opportunities. In 2005, Scotland, in order to push student numbers offered 2 years of work to all graduating students and this was used as a way to seek further work permits or settlement. Other British regions felt the direct impact and wanted the same to extend to other regions and just last year UK changed the regulations and offered the POST STUDY WORK to all regions of UK.
  • NZ doesnot hide the fact that they view international students as a more apt migrant to the island nation. Today, a student WILL NOT get even the student visa if the course that he is attempting to study in NZ scores less points on the Migration point system. NZ only gives visas to students who have a way to get migration post study.
  • Canada too has clear pathways for migration for International students and the various regions within it have always had additional initiatives.
Hence, the presumption that Australia is unique in this and needs to delink the pathway for International students to PR is naïve and careless.

I feel that Australia continues to still offer a pathway even after the regulation changes and only the skills this time will not be cookery or hairdressing but be something else. International student numbers will increase in the areas that will aid this and hence I donot see much of a change overall. Yes, OZ may get more degree students and less vocational students. But, is this really the best for a country like Australia? I wonder. Maybe it should maintain a balance. It should still welcome some Chefs once it has agreed to a system of capping numbers.

Added On 10th Feb: One positive aspect of the new regulations is that the students in the system have been given time till December 2012 to acquire further skills and/or experience in order to be eligible. There is information on http://www.immi.gov.au including FAQs which should answer basic questions. My concern is for those who will enter the system now or who are planning their education at this time as they have no clue till the new SOL and the revised Point Test is announced on whether they are likely to be acceptable. Chefs and Hairdressers are certainly not the flavour of the season but will good Accountants be still required? The answers will take time. Have patience and try to sleep.
Disclaimer: I am not an Immigration expert by training and nor do I claim to be an expert based on my experience. I remain one with an academic interest in the topic. The proposed changes are on www.immi.gov.au and one should not base any decisions on the summarizations made by me. As stated, the full impact can only be known in a few months and at this time we are unfortunately in a “planned vacuum”.


  1. If I was a chancellor / Vice chancellor of a University, I won’t we wrong, recommending your name for awarding Doctorate in Australian Education and Immigration……


  2. Good article, again Ravi. I think we have to be conscious of a number of things in this debate:1) Australia desperately needs migrants as our aging population means a lower tax take and lower GDP-per-capita over time as the baby boomers retire en-mass.2) Migrants who have an Australian qualification fare better in our economy than those with o/s qualifications, or no qualifications – they earn more, employ others, stay out of trouble – all good things for Australia3) The argument by the population 'hystericals' or the climate change 'hystericals' that Australia is full is completely nonsensical and, if their argument bites, Australia risks becoming a marginalised country as our GDP ranking in the world shrinks in comparison to other countries, leading to a dramatic drop in our quality of life.Therefore, retaining or growing a migrant intake where there is a linkage between education and immigration is the only sensible way forward. What shape this will take, who knows. As an Australian and an employer, I don't appreciate being left in the dark in this debate by the Federal Govt. I believe the effect of the 'planned vacuum' will be:a) A collapse of colleges operating as 'visa shops' or those who were only offering MODL courses – I believe the state regulators will have no appetite for modifying the scope of registration of 'at risk' colleges. By delaying registration audits they can effect the collapse of these colleges.b) A reduction in the number of agents who act inappropriately (funneling students into visa shops, issuing fraudulent documents, etc.)c) Longer term, a move towards government-owned institutions – this would help Labor's mates in the unions who can swell their numbers and push for salary increases. This also fits with the desires of the 'democratic socialist' idealogues in the Govt.In short, I believe this is a quick cleanout by the Government – make the collapse short and sharp – one big bang and it's all done. Once it's over, TAFEs and Unis will be in better shape, at the expense of the privates and possibly the long-term reputation of our industry.For our part, LiveEnrol is being extra-careful to work with only good quality institutions and agents and our ability to monitor agent activity over a variety of institutions will help to solidify the industry and quickly regain the confidence institutions and students have in good agents.


  3. I agree that , it is time for Aus to clean up the mess. But, there is no need to use this " Planned Vaccum Cleaner". Education and Politics do not go together.


  4. Hi Dr. Singh,As always your comments give light to the situation.The move in my opinion has not been too well planned having accounting on the list will deter many students from many countries.I do however agree with having hairdressing and cookery on the list as unfortunately there are too many dodgy providers that do not give the students proper qualifications and they will find it very difficult to get skilled and well paid jobs. I guess we will have to wait for the final list to be published later this year.CheersDave


  5. Many do not realise that DIAC and the immigration program has been informed since the early Howard government years by Bob Birrell's Centre for Population & Urban Research CPUR at Monash university which actively seeks out negative aspects of Non English Speaking Background migrants, students etc. in Australia (he was known years ago as an anti immigrationist, but media in Australia do not seem to remember…)This is exemplified by "dog whistling" on race and related issues e.g. refugees, population growth and environment.Further, PM Kevin Rudd and govt. is terrified of offending the white over 50s and related vote.What all this furore and uncertainty masks is the "Keystone Cop" like "competence" of government departments, education industry and regulators.Good old Australian short term planning and not thinking of consequences…..http://www.aiec.hu


  6. I think in a longer perspective, it could be taken as a right and strategic move by OZ gov.. It all happened because of the stiff rise in overseas students in recent years from this region. Furthermore, policies and laws are meant for changes, amendements as the need arises . Now what i think is that there should be a strategic move from "Indian team" to lobby and see that the new SOL list contains courses which benefit our business. Extra points are given to PG studies from G8 Universities etc.


  7. Dear Ravi, I do not believe that education as a route to migration is unlikely to disappear from the Australian policy maker's radar. The Australian Government, like any other democraticaly elected government, makes appropriate noises to keep their constituency happy. Public memory is proverbially short. Let time pass. The new SOL that will come into force later this year is unlikely to carry any far-reaching changes. Let us wait and watch.P. SrieedharanChennai


    1. Sriee, I fully endorse that there is no way of delinking education’s usefulness with migration policies. Those who are educated locally always make better migrants compared to others… I like your comment that Australian Government is an elected government and makes appropriate noises to keep their voters happy. Especially so in an election year.


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