Ozzie Visa Reforms: “Bad Knight” for Top Ranked Foreign Universities and Degree Granting non-Universities !!!

Within weeks, we should be seeing the roll-out of the visa reforms in Australia that has already been greeted with excitement despite some did not read it closely. Now that more details are flowing out… there are some areas that are not right and should be fixed before the reforms are specified and rolled out.

  • For a decade now, Australia has allocated risk based on level of program and NOT whether it was offered by a University or by a non-University.
  • For a long time now, Quality providers in non-University space has been allowed to offer degree such as a Bachelors and in some cases even a Masters degree too. This applies to TAFE and also a few private providers. The other non-University institutions that did not offer the degree on its own either ran packaged programs with Universities or offered pathway/transfer programs with the Universities.
  • For a long time now, Australia has believed in a qualification framework and CRICOS as supreme.
  • For years now, Australia has been laying out a red carpet to leading Foreign Universities to set up campuses in Australia and with assurance that they will get the same treatment as local Universities.

The visa reforms announced following the Mike Knight review have several recommendations but am focussing on two key pillars:

  1. Streamlined Visa Processing for “participating” Australian “University” and
  2. Post-Study-Work for “University” degree pass-outs.

These are great announcements and in positive direction but then this gets us to wonder as to why it will not apply to the above situations

It appears that private providers “who are not permitted to offer degree on their own” but offer pathways linked to University degrees will get the streamlined visa processing. However, non-University such as government-TAFE and certain more-established private providers who are now offering full degrees on their own WILL NOT be able to take advantage of the streamlined visa process… I am not arguing for streamlined processing for diplomas run by private providers or TAFE at all.

It appears that even the Post Study Work will not extend to the degrees (Bachelors/Masters) granted by non-Universities and so can say that it will make them non-competitive. I am not arguing for PSW to diploma students at all.

In a letter to Minister Evans, Stephen Nagle who is the Director of Holmes writes…

The Impact of this Decision

(i)    A decision such as this will immediately create the impression, whether intended or otherwise, that Australia has a two tiered higher education system that higher education providers who are not universities are less capable of compliance and their qualifications are not as useful for work purposes as are university qualifications.  Non-university higher education providers will probably never recover from such a decision in the eyes of the international community.  Their business reputation will be irreparably damaged.

(ii)   Australia has a well-articulated higher education regulatory framework. The Australian government has consistently stated that its regulatory arrangements for higher education are the envy of the world.  This framework requires all providers (including universities) to undergo exactly the same compliance regime which is rigorous.  The regulatory framework makes no distinction between institution type in terms of regulation and qualifications level.  The decision to afford universities an advantage over other higher education providers calls into question the Australian government’s own regulatory arrangements.  The reality is that in terms of compliance, Chinese students have an excellent record except for Fujian province.  For Indian students compliance is reasonable except for the Punjab.

And the letter also states…

If DIMIA are concerned about the risk associated with higher education providers opening up visa arrangements for non-university higher education providers, they need to provide some rationale which explains that the higher education framework established by Australia is not some sort of sham and not supported by the Australian government.  The risk is too great.

 And demands…

That the visa processing priority for university undergraduate programs  offered to international students be extended to those higher education providers who offer:

(i)    undergraduate degrees and have (ii)   FEE-HELP; (iii)  CRICOS registration for their undergraduate degrees and (iv) have been audited by AUQA.

Recent THES rankings indicated that close to 60% of the Universities are in top 400 in the world. There are two Universities from UK and US which are ranked higher than the highest ranked “Australian” University and have a campus in Australia. If we include them, then the overall quality of “degrees offered and taught in Australia” glitters even more…

The Australian reports today… (Full article on the link)

TWO of the world’s leading universities with campuses in Adelaide are concerned the federal government has failed to recognise their status under the changes to visa requirements endorsed by the Knight review.

In a joint letter to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, obtained by the HES, University College London chief executive David Travers and Carnegie Mellon executive director Terry Buss raised concerns they were being treated as higher risk, second- or third-tier institutions, rather than universities.

Both institutions argued if their risk assessment were not changed, both were likely to miss out on the proposed benefits of the review and would be disadvantaged in recruiting international students.

“We’re very confident that we’re as good as everyone else, if not better, and that we would be penalised and left out of the really positive things from the Knight review,” Mr Travers said.

“The work of the Knight review is very good and we welcome the spirit of the suggested changes but we’re concerned that the two most significant benefits create a two-tiered system and we think we’re as good as anyone.”

A measure of the quality of institutions can be glimpsed in last week’s Times Higher Education World University Rankings, in which UCL ranked 17 in the world and CMU 21. Australia’s highest ranking university was Melbourne at 37.

Well, Australia is on the right path and with some streamlining of thoughts before the thoughts are put to action, we can certain hope for a revival in the Industry. I do want to call for a belief in Aussie spirit of FAIR GO. Fairness to all requires that the above anomalies be corrected.

We also need to remember that some of the Universities too have been responsible for what happened in the past. Had they not so “inefficiently” and sometimes “knowingly” packaged the diploma programs of a whole range of private providers with their degrees to enable the students to access easier visa norms even when they knew that the students will not end up doing the degrees, we may have never reached this point of discussion. How can anyone absolve them of their faults…



  1. No reform in this world can ever satisfy all. Some like and some dislike. I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.


    1. Thats right… Not all can be satisfied… However the argument here is not for diplomas but the fact that institutions such as Carnegie Mellon or UCL are being considered ineligible for the provisions…


  2. Very rastist comment from Homles Director. I wonder where the proviate provider stands in the ranking chart. Knight has shafted the private providers offering degree courses. hell a load of rubbish the degree they offer. Australian government should aboloish the degrees offered by ruthless private provider


    1. All have a perspective and have a right to express them… What Holmes is saying is also being argued by leading TAFE providers… The education minister for ACT says: ”The easing of visa restrictions should be extended to bachelor degrees offered by TAFE institutes and consideration should also be given to other VET qualifications in areas of skill shortage.” This is from http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/education/push-for-overseas-students/2320850.aspx?storypage=0

      I guess the argument in favor of diplomas is weak but there are quality job-ready degrees(Bachelors) done by TAFE and certain non-Universities (example : Blue Mountains Hotel School, Billy Blue, Melbourne Inst of Tech… in addition to Holmes) who have a reason to feel let down…


  3. There is an update now…. It seems that DIAC and Australian Government has given in to the demand from Carnegie Mellon and UCL. Today’s The Australian reports… http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/bowen-concedes-top-tier-rights-to-overseas-universities/story-e6frgcjx-1226170011946

    A spokeswoman confirmed the minister had clarified a change in their status under the Knight review with both institutions last Wednesday, after the HES highlighted their concerns.

    “Carnegie Mellon University and University College London will be able to access the same student visa arrangements as other universities operating in Australia,” the spokeswoman said.


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