Knight prompted Aussie Student Visa Reforms impacts Indian Market for Rest of the World.

I have done two blogs in last seven days detailing my interpretation of the Australian Student Visa changes and here I attempt to read the changes from the mind of Australia’s competitors in the Indian market.

United Kingdom:

Media reports indicate that the UKBA changes by themselves have meant a decline in student traffic to UK this year. The easing of Australian Student Visa hurdles may only have a limited impact to UK as compared to the introduction of the POST STUDY WORK of 2 years for the coursework driven Bachelors and Masters programs. PSW is the big news from down-under. This is the first time that Australia will offer such a visa which is not dependent on the program of study or its suitability to migration program. The 457 and 485 options that have been around are more like the work permit and migration-linked stepping-stones to bridge the point-gap in migration system. However the Australian PSW is like the UK PSW that has been dropped by UKBA from next year and which leads to a current decline in student interest to UK. Also any previous systems were also applicable if the student had studied for a minimum two-year timeframe but now the PSW can be availed by any student who has a complete degree and so in another words even a student who has studied for a 1-year or 1.5 year Masters can benefit from the PSW in Australia. This is precisely the point of “pinch” to the UK and its competitiveness here in India. Australian changes have been a result of intensive pressure and lobbying from all quarters but more importantly from the education providers who have been under strain due to declining student numbers from International market. UK is going to be in the same circumstances. If things are not corrected, 2012 will be far worse and all those who are in a space of denial at this time will have to accept the reality. Put your ears to the ground and you can feel the quake…

New Zealand:

This tiny country continues to impress in setting standards. Australia has been paying attention to some of the measures that NZ has in place. NZ allows a sort of PSW to all students but through a more refined “job search visa” option of 1 year and then following a job into a work-permit and a clear pathway to migration. In a way it is one step ahead and has not run away from the reality that International Students do treat education as a pathway to work or settlement in NZ. In a way, the Knight report recommendations in OZ too recognise this in a document and gives this as the reasoning for Post Study Work introduction. I am not sure that hence the OZ’s PSW will have any major impact on NZ. Some impact for sure but not major at all. Australian changes have been solely for the University students and hence of not much impact to the VET sector. NZ continues to build its numbers (rightly or wrongly) due to non-University student numbers and hence those students are unaffected. NZ too is undertaking its own reforms and some of those will have an affect on its student numbers and so we need to avoid confusion with those corrections being reflected as a result of Ozzie changes. NZ introduced the Fund Transfer Scheme that is a “NEW” to all student visa systems and has worked well. I will not be surprised if others adapt this too. Australian system of Expressions of Interest for skilled migration will roll out in latter part of 2012 and NZ has had its system of Expressions for a few years already. Well… it seems that NZ was not just the first country to have scaled Mount Everest or reach Antarctica or give women a right to vote, it also is one that sets the ball rolling for several student visa reforms. However, there is a bomb ticking in NZ too and this relates to continuous identification of loopholes in the system by some Private Education Operators and the resultant abuse of privileges.

Canada:

The reason for the growth in student numbers to Canada in last two years from India is due to the post-study-work opportunities that it offers to graduating students while UK and Australia have experienced declines. Canada also introduced its streamlined visas under SPP while the others have been fiddling around with their systems. In my personal opinion, Canada’s PSW is even one-step-ahead of the Aussie new announcement since they link to the migration system and award greater duration of PSW to Bachelors students. However the growth in Canada has been largely to the non-University (but University-oriented) students. What I mean by this is that a number of students who undertake the studies at the various colleges in Canada are Indian graduates who can get admission in the Universities in Australia. Hence keeping that in mind, the OZ changes will have an impact clearly on Canada. To an extent, the numbers to Canada have been concentrated at few colleges and there are reports that the situation is of overcrowding and dominance of international students vis-à-vis domestic students and hence already at it’s accommodating limits. However, Canada will be one country to still look out for and I will be keen to see as to what the government does to its current SPP program. Does it continue beyond 2012? If yes, then it lives on even though the numbers will not keep growing the same way. If no, the market will collapse. Also Canada needs to make some immediate changes to its regulations that allow students to switch institutions on reaching its shores. Take lessons from other countries.

USA:

A state of confusion continues here. NACAC is in midst of deciding on whether to ban the role of commission-agents and I guess it needs to read the Mike Knight recommendations carefully especially the pages that deal with the role of agents. It will give it a lot more intelligence than what the US institutions led by very-confused academics who are only engaging in hypothetical and assumption driven debates and irritatingly generalising the role of education agents. Australian situation is being quoted widely for their reluctance with agents and hence the Knight Recommendations should be devoted time to. USA is one tiger that continues to sleep. The market for them from India in 2012 will remain the same as 2011.

Singapore and others:

Singapore is making headway from India for sure and this is due to its advantage of proximity primarily and the fact that larger destinations have become a little out of reach in terms of affordability to some Indians. However, the PSW introduction and easing of student visas will certainly swing some of Singapore focussed students to Australia. On the other hand, the Knight recommendations also allow PSW to students who split their study between destinations using the articulation route and hence the various institutions that run programs in Singapore on 2+2 or 3+1 or similar will also gain. Singapore will hence continue its growth though in volume terms will be a small destination. However, Dubai which has attempted to be a study destination seem to be declining already not just due to the easing of visas in Australia but more since UAE has lost some of its shine in recent years.

DISCLAIMER: In the above post, I have indicated my assumption that even a 1 year Masters should be eligible for PSW in Australia. The reason for this assumption is that in the Knight Recommendation there is a specific mention of the minimum duration for the Bachelors degree but not for the Masters. DIAC may actually mention the minimum duration for Masters too but that is yet to be seen… I quote the sections from the Knight Recommendations that formed the basis on the above…

  1. 4.1  All graduates of an Australian university Bachelor degree, who have spent at least two academic years studying that degree in Australia, and who have complied with their visa conditions, should receive two years work rights.
  2. 4.2  All graduates of an Australian university Masters by Coursework degree, who have studied that degree in Australia, and who have complied with their visa conditions, should receive two years work rights on successful completion of their course. 

8 Comments

  1. Thanks Ravi for updating all of us. It is good to see that all countries are learning from their bad experiences. Australia has burn their hands as their sytem i.e. pathway to migration was absued at both on shore and off shore equally. All countires who intend to have students from India and adjoining coutries need to understand that these countries are full of talent and if they leave the gaps then they will be filled/exploited very quickly.

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    1. My take is that Education will remain and possibly a more suitable pathway to Work / Migration in all countries in some ways or other. However your point regarding abuse is right and this happens when the monitoring of the system is not right. Then skill shortages remain as they are and those who migrate in one occupation tend to drive taxis. Further, student visas become just a tool for human traffickers. Having said this, for all countries those who study there will remain better migrants as compared to those who have not studied there. Now, more than in the earlier times, the aussie visa changes mean that closer monitoring is required. Packaging has been brought back and the English requirements have been left to the institutions to decide. If the institutions are not monitored then, we are looking at another review in one year. Honestly, Australia has good institutions but there are also some who despite being Universities have franchised so commercially their operations in some locations and in past there has been gross violations and compromise. Righty pointed out by Knight, agents cannot be held responsible for exploiting opportunities and those opportunities present themselves when the rules are not followed and ethics compromised at the end of institutions.

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