AUSTRALIA loses its USP with changes to SOL/PR RULES & threaten downsizing of the Education Export Business

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New SOL and PR changes threat closure and downsizing of Colleges, TAFEs and also Universities. Losses of jobs, slowdown in economy are byproducts.
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A few weeks ago, a friend commented, in reference to the DIAC tag-line, on my blog: “OZ always said “PEOPLE OUR BUSINESS”, they never said education our business. So, we provided them with what they wanted and it is their headache now to fix it. “
My reply, in continuation of what I shared in my last blog regarding transfer of some roles from AEI to AUSTRADE, is: “OZ has an unsaid mantra that EDUCATION IS ONLY BUSINESS.”
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Now coming to more serious and threatening issue:
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Developments since mid of last year resulted in reviews after reviews being announced with an assumption that the system is not working. This HAS BEEN a huge mistake. There were many systems that had already been improved upon due to other monitoring mechanisms over the years but were now being junked, as each review has to result in a change. Let me give two such examples here:
  • 1. In September 2008, DIAC, following a realization that there were a number of migrants who would use MODL to clear the pass mark but would never practice that as a profession, modified the full MODL points process. The new system initiated required only those who had one year of experience following the qualification in the MODL occupation could count it as a MODL. THIS WAS SUCH A MAJOR CHANGE and would have put an end to “TAXI DRIVERS entering as ACCOUNTANTS” or “COOKS working in SALES”. However, not sufficient time was allowed at all for it to be tested. The review was initiated even when there was no data available to prove this 2008 change was “not working” and now the MODL has been dropped altogether.  Whatever the experts may say, a good system instead of fine-tuning has now been put to rest.
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  • 2. In mid 2009, DIAC announced that from 2010 a job-ready test would be used to ensure that all with trade skills actually have gained the requisite skills that are in shortage and will need better English levels. THIS WAS A MAJOR CHANGE AGAIN AND WOULD HAVE ADDRESSED THE KEY ISSUE and also driven the need for better education delivery by Private Colleges. Now, without even trialing it, it stands junked.
PEOPLE are the one most confused by DIAC’s business decisions.  Hence the DIAC slogan is a mere creation of copy-writers. Knowing that changes are certainly DIAC’s prerogative, it does not need to keep repeating that Immigration rules do change and will change. It also do not need to repeat that students should not assume that they will get immigration post their course of study. It is known and was never assumed. However, any sensible mind, will definitely assume that if  a change is announced, it will be given a period of time to deliver  before it is again reviewed and junked. I forgot, this time period for testing and review, only applies to a particular decision on India’s AL. Not in other aspects of DIAC’s business!!!
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I had done an earlier blog titled PLANNED VACUUM and it is now proving to be worse. PEOPLE are now air-less completely and suffocating. There is no clue to the direction that Australia’s immigration policies will take.
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There is an email in circulation from a Migration Agent who summarized his impressions from the DIAC Asst Secretary at a recent MIA Conference. I wrote to him for a permission to use his name since the email is already in wide circulation/distribution. However, my mail to him bounced as it was treated as a spam. I use content from his mail in parts only and will not reference it to him though would have preferred doing that. He does make a lot of sense when he writes:
It appears that from 1 July 2010 the new approach is for DIAC and the Australian Government to target its Immigration to cater for the current labour market needs. In doing so, the new Skills Australia SOL that will replace the current SOL, CSL and revoked MODL will have a list that is much more like one that is already existent in New Zealand and it is a system that does not seem to work.
What Australia seems to be saying is that a student is meant to study but we still want them to experience the Australian workforce and local employment culture and if it so happens that their occupation is on the new SOL then they will need to prove that they can get full time employment of at least one year and prove their ability to Australian Standards (under the SC485) and during such time if the employer like the candidate that they hired then it would up to the employer to sponsor this candidate to meet the labour market needs under Employer Nomination Scheme.
The truth of the matter out there in the labour market that we asked DIAC is how many Australian employers out there who would be willing to employ an overseas student who has not much experience in their field of study and invest in the sponsorship of that candidate. As I am an Australian employer and looking at an overseas candidate that I need to spend thousands of dollars to help that candidate to get PR to be able to retain them as an employee as opposed to a local Australian candidate I would rather invest in the latter. Wouldn’t you?
The shift that is going to happen post 1/7/2010 will be that Skilled – Independent will be very limited and that Skilled – Sponsored by State Nomination will be somewhat favoured because a candidate will need to show that they have an employer and that the Employer has offered them an employment but really the preferred scheme as told by the DIAC representative is that pathway above which in itself has many flaws.
So where does that leave the education sector and GSM? Well I can say based on that insight it is a real dark place which in the long run it will not achieve its intended purpose of encouraging new labour force to enter the labour market to subsidise for the baby boomers who are retiring and needing the new breed of labour force to subsidise for their pension.
If I were a student, I would not want to come to Australia to study if I am using this as vehicle for Immigration nor would I come to Australia to study and even consider applying PR at the end of my study. Too many hoops to jump. Too many barriers of entry. Is it even worth it? After much consideration, I would rather go back to my country and work back home. So in effect we will not get these new breed of labour force in the Australian labour market all together.
It will have the opposite effect of what is intended and the Australian Education Sector being at the forefront of it is to feel that by a net reduction of Overseas student to Australia in the next few years and beyond as the Australian Tsunami is about to hit on 1/7/2010. Good Luck to Us All!!!
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Now coming to the new SOL draft. Though it is only a draft and the final list will be available in April, the draft by itself is frightening.
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The AUSTRALIAN on 3rd March reported in an article titled JOBS LIST WILL DASH HOPES OF RESIDENCY, the reactions to the shortlist:
Mr Konrad said cooks, hairdressers and accountants made up more than 60 per cent of applicants waiting in the onshore skilled migration pipeline.
“Given the statistics of 60 per cent [waiting in the] pipeline, you’d have to say 70 [per cent] to 80 per cent of students would have their hopes of achieving [permanent residency] dashed,” Mr Konrad said.
He said fresh graduates of accounting and information were unlikely to meet the new criteria.
A broad range of professions – including surgeons, judges and lecturers – make up 52 of the 92 “specialised occupations” on the draft Skilled Occupation List.
Para-professionals such as fire, police and emergency services, and 22 trades – not including cooking and hairdressing – make up the balance of the list.
Skills Australia said the new list would be based on the 92 specialised occupations but might differ in the final occupations included.
However, I was intrigued by the comment from UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY in this article:
University of Technology, Sydney business dean Roy Green said the draft list was dramatic and “much more credible than anything we have seen previously”.
“UTS business will look very closely at this list to see which occupations were included and excluded,” Professor Green said.
“We note accountancy is still included, which is an important part of our intake of overseas students.”
I really wonder how closely Professor Green really looked, to hint that since Accountancy is still included, their intake of overseas students is protected.
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The reality is that Accountancy is on the draft list but with an asterisk(*) and if you look at the second page there is an indication that only CPA or equivalent will be acceptable. Now, for a fresh student from a Masters in Professional Accounting type course to become a CPA, one has to not just clear some more additional tests, one also has to have 3 years of article experience. Hence, is it not closing the door on Accountancy in reality?
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For those who are still hunting the full draft list, I share it below, courtesy a friend…
Now only time will tell whether the knee-jerk move to delink education from being a migration-pathway is indeed a right decision. I indicated in an earlier blog, education has been the pathway to work and settlement world-over and is not unique to OZ. I really wonder if the commentators and advisors are fully confidant themselves on the direction that they have advised the Australian Government. There appears to me a case of “over enthusiasm” and also “professional negligence” on part of the experts.
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Prediction:
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I predict that without the work/settlement pathway, Australian education’s USP vanishes and only the elite Universities (such at the GROUP of EIGHT) will be able to attract overseas students to Australia, albeit in even smaller numbers. TAFE, newer Universities and almost all private colleges should see the writing on the wall. All the good work over many years seems to be over. Less of International students will mean less jobs and slower economy…
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God, please make me wrong!!!
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I actually foresee a review being announced in 2011-12 and new changes once again in 2012-13. Mates, I will remind you all that I wrote this today and next time you will pay more attention to my words. Remember that there is a transitional arrangement in place for students currently studying in Australia and hence any impact that is felt will only after this group has exhausted all options to move to work/settlement post their study. Till then the statistics will keep misguiding us.
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G’day

18 Comments

  1. Hi Ravi,

    Thanks a lot for the detailed explanation. I personally feel that it is a great news and fantastic for business. There will not be any more junk colleges and junk students who use doggy colleges to get their way into Australia. Very good and thanks to Australian Government to bring these serious changes.

    Yes, the business will be affected for next two years. So be it. Atleast we can go to Australia with chin up stating that all our students are employed in good companies in Australia rather than garbage collectors and taxi drivers.

    I totally support Australian Government for these changes and well come it.

    cheers

    Vivek from Coimabatore

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    1. Vivek, there is something which is missing. Two years of slowdown is only going to put a full stop not just to the students but to the momentum and brand of Australia in the market place. What Australia needed was only fine tuning not a road block.

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  2. Ravi,

    1. Australia’s biggest USP is its ability of absorb low skilled migrants

    2. De linking Education and migration is a big mistake keeping in mind that we are in a Global world

    3. Australia offers world class Education and has fantastic Universities and TAFE’s, which is something unique in the world

    4. One of the review papers of the Aust Govt has a question “Should the Points Test differentiate between Australian and overseas qualifications? To my mind this question downgrades the Australian Education / Alumni brand

    5. At the end of the day it’s the business process of the Education providers which is an issue and not the skills criteria. The Australian Govt needs to tighten its Corporation law 2001 especially subsection related to liquidation of companies and rights of unsecured creditors.

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    1. Rahul, The biggest stumbling block in Australia is “weak compliance” to the rules. This applies to private colleges but also to the Government. Turning the tap off is not the solution at all.

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  3. Dear Ravi,

    I am fully agree with concerns of Ravi, even his reply to Vivek that when momentum is lost, it will takes years to be back on track.

    Looking at past, it took years or decades for Indian or International students to think Australia is one of favourite destination alongwith USA and UK.

    I still fail to understand what all are objectives Australian Government wish to achieve by taking all steps of changing rules and regulations completely instead fixing loopholes and fine tune system.

    Till such time when anyone will know final outcome of government wish for taking such steps, life will be miserable.

    Prasanna Acharya

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    1. Exactly. The loopholes should have been plugged instead of a completely new and untested regime. My take is that since 2008’s MODL changes and 2009 announced 2010 changes for trade skills requiring job-ready test, two of the huge gaps had already been plugged. These should have been tested and believe me, it would have covered all issues.

      Now we are in for a new regime which will totally untested. It will not lead to any problems because the tap is being turned off in reality.

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      1. Now the onshore students will give more headache which will be difficult to control and all these students who can’t get PR will mutate and become a new kind of virus, which will result in new types of problems onshore which I don’t want to mention.

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    1. Dear Ravi,
      I have read your good blogs courtsey Jag.
      Australia the Country which we all love and have fond memories but things are changing fast. Once a Cab Driver in Melb. said in a brief conversation “whenever the Labour Govt. Comes in power, they destroy the system and bring the countries to its feet and yet its the biggest Party.”

      Isnt Australia a Tourist Country and a Major part of its revenue do come from Tourism apart from Mining and Education ( No more).
      So why is the minister against Cooks and Hairdressers. Hospitality is a Major Sector and it needs all the Cooks, Chefs, hotel/ motel managers it can have.

      Rather he should check its own education polices and distributing of CRICOS to Resturant Owners and people who do not have any competency in the industry.

      Australian Private colleges have faltered to provide quality education, for which the minister should also look at compensating the students.
      The minister was unable to check fake application and its faulty e-visa system. Why did they open the flood gates at the first place itself.

      Don’t you think just by doing some checks and slightly raising the Bar of IELTS would have sorted out a lot of fake work.

      I had predicted this long time back to my Good Friend Jag. There was so much fake stuff happening, the e visa system was good, the people who got key to the system had misused it. It actually opened the flood gates. People who did not have access to e visa were termed as not competenet enough, but then look what the competent agents did to the industry. They do have a big role to play because the vast number of visas were being issued from Adelaide. Fake Douments, Fake Marriages, Bank Loan set ups, all got covered up in the e visa system, without any intrviews and checks.

      The Minister is scraping MODL and changing the SOL. The vast country such as AUSTRALIA which has a population equal or little more then the Day Time population of Kolkata. Common sense prevails – that country need all sorts of skills and labour to build up the society and the Nation.
      What are regional skills shortage – how many nurses or engineers do they require to suffice a village of 100 people. They need to put more people in those villages first.

      Australia has prooved over and over again its a young inexperienced country and can never get into the foot steps of USA. The Liberal Govt. had a straight 3 term and had the experience to follow up its policies. The Labour Govt. is out of touch I beleive.

      Prediction: Changes, Changes and Further Changes and Further Confusion.
      God Bring back the Liberals.

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      1. Gurpreet, you are right that some checks including raising the bar on english would have cut on the problem significantly. This is the point. There were several steps that could have been taken and some were already taken too. Anyway, the government has decided.
        Regarding your political take that Liberals will be better, I differ. Politicians are the same everywhere. Take for example that in Victoria, the opposition remains non-committal on the issue of travel subsidy to students. Further the City of Melbourne is with Liberals while the State Govt is with Labour. Both have had the same slowness over security and safety issues.

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      2. Gurpreet,

        The problem was not with eVisa access. The problem was that DIAC wanted Agents to do the job which DIAC was supposed to do (verifications). What authority do Agents have to verify documents from banks and other authorities? How can we expect to get vital and private information about a particular Bank account? And why they didn’t ask documents to be sent to AHC or Adelaide for verifications from New Delhi along with the eVisa applications?

        I still think evisa system was a good step. But they should have made it available to everyone and verifications handled by AHC only, not Agents or applicants.

        As with SOL kicking in mid-April, we should get used to frequent shuffling of occupations on SOL. This seems like the future trend.
        Cooks may be out today but in a year, who knows!

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        1. Jag,
          The eVisa system is part of the client-servicing aspect of student visa and hence unrelated to this blog which focusses on the policy issue. However since you raise it, let me share my comments.
          The eVisa system is the future. While Australian-onshore eVisa lodgements will be affected as the agents will not be able to verify documents, the experienced eVisa agents in India are able to do verfications quite well and efficiently. Where there is suspicion and one is unable to verify, DIAC is advised accordingly and requested to do the verification.

          There was always a need for DIAC to ask agents to lodge visas that they are more sure with. or else the paper lodgement pathway is always open.

          I have done eVisa for years and before that was part of the PVA pilot where we could issue the PVA and confirm that if an agent wants to verify, they can verify almost anything.

          I take your point that SOL will keep changing and that cooks may be out today but will come back tomorrow. Possible but very unlikely. I do think that the point test that is to still be announced will be a game changer. There is possibility of two main changes that I foresee. 1)Higher IELTS threshhold and 2)removal of the work exp waiver for onshore graduating student applicants.

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  4. Frequent changes does not resolve the issues but yes plugging the loop holes and fine tuning is the need of the hour.Time frame is the essence for any policy matter to show results and one should not forget the universal Seven YEAR Itch syndrome which gives ample time to work on or thrash out the differences if there are any.It is always easier to counter an old enemy than a new one who is unknown, unpredictable and therefore more dangerous as well, similar to our ever changing SOL’s. Well it is a myth that Australia is the only country to offer pathways to migration. New Zealand, UK, USA and Canada offer migration to students after completion of their studies and if Australia does not change the assessment levels soon and brings back India to assessment level 3 they will miss out on the high quality students at the undergraduate level. Well if the Down Under is happy with students from other countries then our students will definitely look for greener pastures some were else as it is miles and miles to go in this beautiful and free world !!

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    1. Bubbly, the system will apply to all countries and it is not just Indian students who will find it difficult to move on to PR. Even other nationalities will feel the issue and am sure numbers will drop from these countries too.

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  5. Hi Ravi,

    I absolutely agree with you and the market will go down. But honestly you look into the way our beloved “Indian students” and Indian so called representative has done a world wide damage to a wonderful country and its reputation. I think personally that’s the reason why Australians and its government has taken this serious measure.

    What ever the case may be, hurting a country with “Racism” tag so widely and deeply will hurt any country and any organisation where in all the murders are done by fellow Indians. As you are well aware 90% of India does not know who did the murder and still they believe Aussies have done it. How bad it is and for sure even India will take the same step if we would have been in this situation.

    I totally and unconditionally support Australia for the steps they are talking towards curbing the Bad Indian students and their technical path way. As you know even engineers will get PR, even doctors will get PR so I think from now on if any one wants to go to Australia he can go for Engineering program rather than the dubious cookery and hairdressing programs. Which i totally support.

    I also feel it is getting too much now a days in Australia. All these garbage have given a very bad name and I wish Australia will take even more hard act in curbing these Indians getting into their country and get their PR and citizenship and then sitting at home and sending emails and skype interviews to Indian channels telling them Aussies are racist.

    Another issue here is “Spouse allowed to work” which has to be stopped or make it more tougher. This will control all the contracted marriages and all these indians who are in australia on a spouse visa will not be in the work force. If I can give a suggestion to Immigration office I would say make it as tough as they can be towards spouse to work fulltime. I also recommend that the spouse should submit IELTS with band of 6.5 as well. This will be great move. Yes we might miss few indian students but in long run this will be great and you and me can walk proud in Melbourne as an Indian where the case is not the same now.

    Go Australia and please make it even tougher for all these garbies to enter Australia using cookery, Community welfare and hair dressing courses.

    I also heard that plumbing and carpenter courses are picking up in Punjab. Good luck to them mate

    cheers and happy weekend

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    1. Vivek, you do have a perspective to it and really welcome your putting it out as a comment. We agree that the type of students (if we can call them that) in recent years was not what was hoped for. However there was a need to fine tune than to junk the full system. You are wrong that the engineers will now be able to apply for PR easily and we need to wait for the new point test. It is being expected that even engineers will not be able to move to PR after the studies and will have to first get work exp and then hope for employer support. there are aspects such as the disclosure of the commission on the offer letters that also bothers education agents. The need to change AL for 573 is a priority and unfortunately is not getting so.

      Anyway, we will all keep our fingers crossed.

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  6. Hi Ravi,
    I am worried about BRAND AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION! Although I did undergraduate at the LSE and PG at US universities, yet having interacted with education providers in Group of Eight universities I found the latter more innovative,industry related and futuristic as well as appropriate for students from Asia Pacific region . Now that the inexperience of Australian policy makers are surfacing, what Australian Education Brand had gained during last two decades are being eroded! .Very sad indeed!

    Like

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