Assessment Level change for 573 is the single most positive news in the industry in the last year. It resulted due to sheer objectivity on the part of the decision takers and also considerable level of formal and informal lobbying aimed at explaining the disadvantage the visa requirements were causing to some genuine students. Now that it will make visas for the University bound students easier from April 2011, there is an expectation already that this will result in a reversal of the student-number trend that Australia finds itself in. This is not just a premature assessment or unrealistic expectation but is rather naïve.
Student numbers have fallen dramatically but totally on expected lines and to figures that has been predicted quite accurately, not just by myself but by most “in the know”. Experts took their time and once they overcame the bout of denial and a period of gazing at outdated statistics, they have given the reasoning for the fall in student numbers to 1)Security Concerns following the hyped reporting of the Melbourne incidents, 2)Student Visa hurdles posed by the AL4 assigned to category 573, 3)Period of relative confusion related to migration regulations and Post-study-work opportunities and 4)Forex changes that made the Aussie dollar dearer. In changing order of preference according to their own leanings.
Australia has now attempted at addressing these causes and waits for an effect. While the security issue has been addressed particularly in Melbourne and there has not been any Nitin Garg or Shrawan Kumar type incident for well over a year now, it will take some time and positive media for the security concerns to be removed from the minds of students and their parents. Student visas have been made easier for University bound students with the proposed AL change. The new migration system has been announced and there remains some pathways to gain experience in Australia post studies especially for those with higher levels of English and with skills in demand.
However, the issue of forex changes making Australian education dearer has not been addressed yet. When I point it to the experts that they are wrong in concluding the forex to be an uncontrollable factor, they do give me a good ear when I lay out the prescription. It basically relates to the first chapter in any economics text book. The price is determined and should be determined by supply and demand. In the current situation when the supply of places at the Universities is in surplus and the demand needs to be worked upon, the only method to do so is to ensure that the price “in Rupees” is kept at competitive levels to the options that the students have across the world. I am aghast to find Universities increasing the fees in 2011 even when the demand is poor. This is pushing them out of the consideration completely. In-fact, what they should be doing is to keep the fees at 2010 levels and offer a special “India bursary” to all Indian students which for a year could bring the fees down and hence help the attempt to excite the market again.
Once the institutions become aware of this requirement from their end and have addressed it, they should then aggressively arrive at the market and once again begin the promotions for quality Australia Education. “Go Ozzie Go” indeed.
Australian Government Departments too need to raise their resources and engage public relations stalwarts and image consultants. I am told that companies such as Counselage of Suhail Seth represents the British interests and do a good job (!). Prominent promotions highlighting the quality of Australian University Studies when coupled with Public Relations campaigns will definitely act as catalyst and in two years, Australia can once again be at the top of consideration for the Indian students.
Several ends to tie and they are getting there. My problem remains that my patience is running out and the interest in Australian education in India is losing momentum. Any delay will make it all even tougher. I am going to do my bit. What about you?