This is an interesting week indeed. I have also just returned to the chaos after spending a few weeks in Australia that allowed me to hear and share the viewpoints of several others in the industry…
Flashing the disclaimer of it remaining a “developing story”, both the concepts evolving out of the Knight recommendations are laudable and certainly aimed at propping up the languishing industry. It is certainly the caffeine that International Education wanted and now it’s the time for looking into the nuts and bolts of the details since there are several anomalies that needs fixing before it is too late.
Streamlining “key” Anomalies:
With no template or prototype available to Universities, there are several approaches to the streamlining. This is a possible cause for some chaos.
The “grander” Universities believe that they donot need so many checks since “wrong students” donot come to them at all. This is possibly true to an extent since stricter entry requirements, stricter attendance norms and higher fees do work as a screening by itself. MY WORRY: It is possible that there may be some students who begin with the grander University to be able to get an easy visa and then change institutions… What is the insurance? Catching the agents will not be a good idea since the students can be exposed to other influences once they are on-shore and may find the studies easier or fees cheaper elsewhere…
Most Universities are working on redrafting their forms so that they can collect some financial commitments from the students and know on how the studies will be funded. This is totally in line with the requirement but MY WORRY: Some of the Universities want the financial sponsorship details along with the initial application when the student at that time is not even 100% sure that he will get in and/or he will choose this institution from the various other options that he has. This is a wrong move and will actually deter the applicants. The better idea is what some others are implementing… which is : The initial application doesnot ask financial details… The offer letter thus generated is conditional to financials and hence before the issue of eCOE, the University is able to satisfy itself.
A linked issue is with regards to checks and the role of agents or University’s contracted local staff. Who will take ownership to the genuineness of the applicant? Frankly, the agent alone should be asked to also sign a pre-verification-checklist prior to request for eCOE. Only the agent is in the position and also having the skill-set that is required for the verifications. I am of the firm view that the current skill-set of the local contracted staff of Universities is not suitable for verifications of documents at all while it might be fine for the other roles… Infact, my recent interactions with University senior staff surprised me that many Universities donot really know why they have an Indian office… A clarity will not just help them but will help the staff and also the agent. With hardly any market left in B level cities and hardly any paper applications in the system now… the only area that comes to my mind as a ground for having a local staff is to enable out-reach activities and institutional linkages. To ensure that this happens, one would need the right qualification and skill-set though. Also remember that most Universities have already pruned their agent lists and there are only a few agents left for the recruitment staff to work with. The student numbers for Australia is also about 10% of what it was two years ago and though growing, not likely to reach the 2008-09 level ever again.
Post Study Work Anomalies:
There is a recent FAQ on PSW on the immigration website. it clearly indicates that students graduating and applying for PSW must have studied for 2 academic years (92 wks CRICOS completed in a minimum of 16 months) and in a course that leads to a Bachelors, Masters or PhD.
The details also go on to indicate that packages that total to 2 years is fine but a Masters cannot be packaged with a Graduate Diploma and hence implying that all components of a package should be either a Bachelors, Masters or PhD.
Wow.. Heads, you lose; Tales, I win…
The above just defeats the purpose of the AQF. How does a student studying a quality 1.5 year Masters be eligible for the PSW if he cannot add a Graduate Diploma or a Grad Certicate to his Masters… Asking him to study another Masters is grossly unfair indeed. In the same line of thinking, a student who studies at a TAFE can package into a Bachelors degree and be required only to study another 1.5 years to get a Bachelors degree and will also benefit from the introduced streamlining with this genuine and appropriate packaging BUT will not be eligible for PSW even after having studied for well over 3 years in Australia.
I also read somewhere that the students should have applied and started their “first” student visa after 5th November 2011 since the PSW is dependent on the student having been assessed under GTE when they first entered Australia. This is a disadvantage to those who are Australian alumni and are returning to Australia to study a next level program of study. it is also a disadvantage to a student who may have started their Bachelors in 2011 and graduating in 2013 and 2014. Something is not right. Australia does pride in offering a FAIR GO…
Come On Policy Makers at DIAC. Fix these and fix them quickly… PSW is a decider in the game!
This is not my only post on the topic and you can certainly look out for more commentaries to this developing story. My interest is purely to ensure that the industry wakes up and the new laudable changes are implemented correctly. After spending more than two decades here, I seem to sniff the areas that stink.
I know the immediate response for some will be to dislike my open criticism even though it is clearly pro-active and constructive. Am reminded of saying of KABIR that most Indians must have heard from their elders…
Nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chhawaye;
Bin sabun pani bina nirmal karat subhaye.
(Keep a critic near you in your backyard for they will help you cleanse yourself without soap and water)
FOR ACCURATE AND UPDATED INFORMATION ON STREAMLINING AND POST STUDY WORK, PLEASE CONSULT WWW.IMMI.GOV.AU . THE ABOVE IS ONLY A PERSONAL COMMENTARY OF THE BLOGGER AND NOT MEANT TO BE COMPLETE OR ACCURATE.
Good morning Ravi, Very nice blog and the concerns you raised are all very true and logical. I liked your 1st concern, where students enter Australia with a Grander Uni and change in the 2nd sem due to various reasons. Who is to be blamed in this scenario? Your other concern regarding agents alone to take the responsibility of verification’s is not correct. In the whole process the agent is the person who gets paid ONLY when a visa is granted and students enrolls at the Uni. Whereas every other individual involved in this process is getting a salary irrespective of the success of the application. So, keeping the onus completely on the agent is not correct. Actually the agent has a bigger responsibility of running his business and also keep everyone happy. Its not correct to burden the agent with additional responsibilities. There are so many agents who have done and been doing good work and brought this industry to this level, So, the Uni’s should have good agents on board with good track record ( taken from DIAC) and work together in selecting good students.
Thanks Venu. Honestly, the issues that arose in 2007-09 are no longer the issues here. VET sector is out of streamlining and PSW at this time. PSW is not a direct migration link too. The A$ rate does not make Australia as a real cost effective option.. hence we are looking at relatively better students opting now. Also the students are choosing wide areas of disciplines and not just a few MODL type programs. Universities will work with a fewer agents and if DIAC is asking Universities to take responsibility to get faster visas, the Universities are within their right to ask their agents to take responsibilities too. Having said this, there is responsibility being shared anyways by all. My comments about the skill-sets for checks and verifications is simply because I know that there is a requirement for a different type of personality and skill set to be able to call up the financial institutions, village patwaris… as compared to counseling students.
However Ravi, I don’t think this is a solution for any ongoing problems, we ( including all stakeholders and authorities) must all learn to live with it.
Fraud and compliance will definitely be there in all areas, fields and in all countries. How long can the policing act go on? One day they will all get tired of it all.
Universities are meant for teaching and research. Their role is teaching, professional training for high level career aspirations and jobs. I am not sure how they can control fraud or keep track of their student activities . Anyhow lets wait and see …
i would feel that the streamlining is not “policing”. Infact, if it works as per plan, it can be a turning point actually. If a student want to go to an Uni and is able to demonstrate to the Uni that he has a reason, ability to study and fund the program, the Uni will accept him and issue an eCOE. Based on this eCOE, DIAC issues the visa. It is a real good thing “in principle”.
Hi Ravi. What a week it has been. Each University is working on their checklists, and I am sure that most agents are doing the same. It will take a while for everyone to sync, and hopefully adopt similar checklists that take best practice into consideration.
My biggest concern is how University’s will deal with direct applicants. One University said to us “Student applying direct to institution will be required to provide a signed declaration that they have the financial capacity to meet all financial requirements – fees, health, living costs etc. We will apparently accept certified documents which have been verified sighted and signed off by a notary public”.
The above statement is a time bomb in the waiting. As it is, fraud is rife, and to accept a students word is playing with fire.
Another concern I have, is that this system will not stay around forever. What if in a few years we revert back to the “old system” where DIAC is responsible for verification, etc. What if during the SVP era many students faced challenges in Australia, and this was recorded by DIAC. DIAC may say that students from this country are “high risk” and therefore need to go up an assessment level, which would be detrimental to the industry.
What many University’s are trying to do is avoid paying a commission. While this is an expense, over a 3 year degree, on average it comes to 3.33% of total fees paid by the student. I just wish that University’s look at how many direct applications convert vs. those received from agents, and also how much time they waste with direct queries.
Australia may also need to create a compulsory student agent registration organisation that vets all student agents thoroughly. No Institution in Australia should be able to appoint a non-registered agent.
These are my thoughts.
Interesting comment indeed. How will the Universities deal with direct applications where the agent is not there to do verifications? I agree that just providing a notarized document or an affidavit from current AL3 of AL4 countries will not be serving the goals and many can sneak in. I like the term “time bomb” for such an option. In a nutshell, the Universities and the DIAC can gain by having an agent on the ground who will do all the checks and also take responsibility for any. Poor agent… but I guess he is now going to be important not just for recruitment but even for integrity check on the application. What an irony indeed!
Boom time for the companies who have been following the compliance and loyal to the Australian Education. Soul searching for the companies who have dented their brand value………bottom line……Australia will gain……..
I do think that only a handful agents will be left in the industry at the end of the day. Yes, those who have attempted at honesty will gain… Karma…
Good karma Ravi, and not before time!
Good morning Ravi,
Very nice blog…..!!!
That means after completing 1.5 year master degree, students have to take another master degree or bachelors degree or else go back to their country ? Taking double master degree would be very costly. what sort of rule is this, universities and DIAC needs to think on it, when university itself has decided that masters is of 1.5 year then why DIAC asking for 2 year of study that too masters.
In such case students might go for other countries like canada or US…..where there is no constraint on number of years to study…..these rules certainly doesn’t attract a student willing to come to australia, finance is a major concern for students fo rindians especially.DIAC needs to think and change these rules as quickly as possible before students rule out Australia as country to do higher education.