Utter SVP chaos! Ozzie Universities to learn swimming, sans instructor or manual.

Streamlining Visa Processing is not really turning out to be as per design. The visa part of the processing may become so but rest of the process is jumbled up with little expectation of SVP enabling streamlining in practice for the forthcoming intake.

First some facts…

  • SVP was a decision taken by DIAC in late 2011 and announced at that time itself that it will be implemented to suit the mid year (July) intake of Universities in 2012. Keeping this in mind, an action plan did develop and Universities were almost cajoled into signing into it. It has been now implemented w.e.f. 24th March 2012.
  • The SVP looks very good on paper and if implemented properly, it will be a game changer and may really be the caffeine needed at this time.
  • Though the Universities have signed onto it, ONLY two institutions (one is “the leading” Private University and the other is a “one” Private Business Partner of an University) that has got its part right and has provided its agents with clear guidelines on the processes. All others have only forwarded and re-forwarded the immi web links and FAQ and the matrix as provided by DIAC with some vague guidelines indicating that work is in progress to get the act right.

It is true that the Universities have agreed to the SVP but interestingly the homework is so incomplete on the part of the Universities. One would have thought that the Universities will be ready with their checklists and requirements right on the date of DIAC implementation so that any student applying for a visa on the very first day, will be able to do so. But that did not happen. In an earlier blog I did point out some lacunae in SVP that required fixing but here, in this article, the focus is on efficient implementation of a policy that is agreed upon by the stake holders!

I don’t fault only the Universities on this but also DIAC for rushing the Universities into it without a realization that the skills that the Universities possess are primarily academic and has not much to do with entry clearance. They agreed to build this in but the time provided to them did not consider the manpower issues and also budgetary constraints that plague many of the institutions. Having said this, the Universities could have huddled and lobbied for this implementation to be pushed to a later date. They did not and hence they gave an impression that they were ready. Now they get what they deserve.

Let me share some real examples of the confusion.

A student who has to apply the visa for a Bachelors degree beginning with a six-month foundation where the program begins in April could only lodge visa today after going around in circles for a few weeks. The reason for the delay: Both the University and the Business Partner which runs the foundation were clue-less and without any set format for an undertaking or to gauge the financials.

The advise of the business partner institution was that they are not fully certain and so we should take advise of DIAC.

‘As far as we know there is no particular form to be filled for SVP.  We however recommend that you contact DIAC directly for confirmation.’

We did ask the DIAC and was advised to contact the University that has to take the onus under SVP. The response of the University was even more reflective of the confusion that exists currently. When we failed to get a reply from the admissions office in the first instance, a senior member of the marketing team was contacted. The reply on 5th April…

‘The streamline process has not been implemented yet so I am not sure what you are asking.’

What? My understanding was that the SVP was implemented on the 24th March itself… Has it been put on hold or am I missing a piece in the puzzle! We did correct the institution’s perception based on our perception but the issue regarding the visa lodgment remained and the student had to be served. And the issue regarding the confusion generally in the industry became even more obvious to me.

The DIAC was contacted again and we decided to go ahead with the lodgment ‘under SVP” but with as much of financial documents as possible and allowing every reason for the application to be approved.

This is not the only example. One institution was under the impression that while they will take time to figure out the SVP and their own document requirements, they planned to advise the agents to apply for the unsure cases under regular AL3 regulations. The precise question that bothered them was…

‘Is it true that if a university opts for SVP, then the university cannot tell its non registered agents that they will have to process applications non SVP.’

Once again, I did confirm from my understanding that for participating Universities and their business partners, there are no two channels. All applications for eligible programs have to be under SVP alone. Matter resolved but the point about the confusion on the part of education providers continue.

Not just education providers, some of these questions are leading to wrong advise being passed on by students too by some possibly more responsible education agents. In an all-India advertising dressed as editorial in Times of India, they advise the market…

‘Students who do not wish to be assessed under the SVP may continue to apply for their visa under the regular system in Sun-Class 573-AL 3(or as the case may be) where they have to show funds in acceptable format for a specified period of time.’

This is an incorrect advise in my opinion and I wonder where did the agent pick this up. The DIAC information session that was attended to by all active education agents certainly did not indicate this advice.

It is not just the Universities, their nominated business partners and their contracted agents who continue to live in the chaos, even the DIAC does…

Any education agent that lodges visas under eVisa will confirm that once they lodge the visa, the system requires them to attach Agent Checklist and other requirements that are dated November 2011 and requires all financial matrixes… even today under SVP when the financials can at the most be part of the “recommended” list of DIAC as per policy. Hence, the system at DIAC is taking its time to change when we would expect all such homework to be in order before the system is rolled out. We are talking about DIAC now and hence such shortcomings are not expected.

I have brought this to the attention of DIAC and have received a very helpful response. They will communicate this to the onshore processing unit and hopefully it will be fixed soon. Hence, in the meanwhile, the visa couldn’t be lodged under eVisa and went in for paper based processing.

In a way, this was good, since the general opinion of all stakeholders is that the Delhi post of DIAC is possibly much more efficient and responsive than any others. One institution wrote the following when they were shared with the “precise and clear” presentation made by DIAC’s Delhi post, within days of the changes…

I congratulate the processes taken by India, light years ahead of DIAC in PRC.

I agree with this for sure… SVP is a very good development if all can get their act together and implement it in a way that it does streamline international education industry overall.

NO DISCLAIMERS THIS TIME… All quotes are real and exact without any change in wordings. The purpose of the quotes was to make the larger point. The Universities can be thrown into the water but for them to be able to learn swimming, they do need an instructor and a manual… leadership is required too that can help mobilize this. Otherwise, they will drown and with them the hope for a revival too will drown.

8 Comments

    1. My blogs are precisely this. It allows a mirror option. It allows a reflection. I allows a perspective. It helps in finding loopholes not for them to be exploited but for them to be plugged before they are exploited.

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  1. The facts mentioned by you are not stand alone cases, though it may be too early to say that it is the “Rule of the time”. Universities are not very clear about the check list and not sure what to see in the student financials. I sincerely hope that this will all be handled very fast to ensure that the required push, which is expected out of SVP is not lost, before even getting the momentum to maintain the speed.

    Arun Bhutani
    iAE India

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    1. Quick huddle of International teams of Universities can help with a few common templates… Even if all the Group Eight take lead and then maybe the various State Teams can take it forward. This is where Universities Australia, International Directors Forum, IEAA… come in. What I mean with no instructor or manual is precisely this…

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  2. Well said Ravi. Personally, I’m concerned about the way student applications will be judged by uni onshore reps. How can we be sure of their knowledge and understanding? Are we now subject to their judgements on such matters?

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    1. Dipu, I guess you are referring to “in-country reps who are on Uni payroll in some forms” when you say “uni onshore reps”. I do feel that it will help both the Uni and the in-country staff if there is clarity on what the Uni expects from the in-country position and the associated skills are in place. Most institutions feel that having a staff in the country will help at low cost. However the “help” is often not clearly described. When the culture started of having an In-country contact, the Australian market was booming and there was a need to cover many B and C level cities too which an Aussie traveling staff couldn’t attend to. Then there was a pressure for “spot and quick admissions”. Some institutions attempted institutional outreach through the local staff. However, the industry has been evolving and evolving fast. The number of students going to Australia is now 10% of what it was two years ago and there is NO market in B and C level cities. There is no need for spot-admissions and now with SVP, there is no need to rush too with offers. However, institutional outreach remains an important area where the agent is not able to facilitate beyond a point. But the million dollar question is: Is there not a skill set that is required for Institutional Outreach. In India there is a clear “like engages with like” attitude and in the academic circles success will only happen if the right profile engages with the institutions. There are some “in-country contacts” who are doing a decent job and at least attempting this. There are some where I am not sure. And an internal survey of counsellors in India indicate that in some cases, the interaction of students with in-country staff is negative. Hence there are differences between one and the other. Some Good, Some Okay and Some Bad. If any institution hopes to use the Indian contact for SVP checks, it is grossly confused. With over 14 languages and with document differences between regions and with a totally different skill set for checks, any in-country contact cannot do this job. One or two are exceptions. Even in the agent offices, the counseling and visa teams are often different and for this precise reason. The Universities need to bank on their trusted agents and the agents have a responsibility too.

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      1. Ravi, Agents can facilitate the institutes, however do all universities have ethical agencies or is it just numbers that the marketing offices in India will look for ….. (This is a million dollar question too)

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  3. Ravi , maybe some institutes are depending on the contracted agents to verify all the documents, however it will be the University who will undergo random audits and this may open the eyes

    I just attended the web seminar of one Australian university recently and the speaker said AL1 processing, where as we are “AL” exempt and lots of things are different to AL 1 criteria

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