DIBP needs to be applauded for bringing in a minimum English proficiency requirement with student visas under the SSVF. “Medium of Instruction” certificates from Indian institutions can’t replace the IELTS/PTE/TOEFL requirements for non-streamlined applicants.

Under SSVF, “regular” (non-streamlined) students from the sub-continent will need to meet the basic English Language Proficiency requirement set by the DIBP and this can be met through a required score in IELTS (or one of the other tests).

I am aware that even under the SSVF (being introduced in July 2016), few institutions (very few that may quality as AL1) may still be able to set their own requirements and some of them may be tempted to continue accepting dodgy/unreliable certificates indicating English Medium of Instruction issued by Indian institutions, in-lieu of the IELTS test scores. However, most such Institutions (with streamlined applications from the sub-continent) are expected to be extra cautious. I believe that allowing English Language Test to be replaced by a dodgy MOI document is knowingly finding shortcuts for lesser students simply to recruit student numbers.

I strongly recommend to ALL Australian Education Providers (even if their applicants are to be streamlined) that they insist on a formal English Language Proficiency test score from their applicants from India or Nepal or Bangladesh. If any are to be waived under streamlining, it may only be an exception based on various other criteria other than a mere MOI document.

I know that there are some students who may not have any of the English proficiency tests but possess skills that will ensure that they will score well if they took the test. It is still too risky to operate through waivers.

Having said the above, it is a fact that it is too easy to get a certificate from any College or University in India indicating the medium of instruction at the institution as “English”. However this doesn’t prove that the student is proficient with the language and certainly doesn’t demonstrate his skill with Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking of the language that is going to be so critical to his or her success with education in any of the main education destinations.

It is also a fact that several agents (and sometimes institution’s in-country reps) also advise a student to hide their low IELTS score and simply provide the MOI document.

In 2001, Australia made a certain IELTS/OET score compulsory for the purpose of the student visa. A few years ago, other tests such as PTE/CAE/TOEFL were also made acceptable. Once SVP (Streamline Visa Processing) was introduced, the role to check the student’s English proficiency was left to the education providers. This is when the abuse of the norm took place and several institutions under pressure to attract student numbers, waived the English requirement if the applicants were able to substitute the English language test requirement with simple MOI document. MOI document being a letter from student’s educational institution indicating the medium of instruction is English.

Honestly, for some institutions, it became the main USP. One regional University was able to attract students to their main campus (the location of which the student may not be even able to place on a map) solely on the basis of the English Test waiver. The University made amends and though the numbers dropped, compliance onshore increased. There are a few other institutions that however refuse to accept the reality and would like to give the student and the education agent – benefit of doubt. I can only suggest that if they test the student’s skill after arriving in Australia by sponsoring their IELTS test, they will be shocked (or may not be) by the low score that 90% of such students will get.

The same holds true for several NZ institutions too and NZQA working with Immigration NZ modified their norms in October 2015 to ensure that the student visa applicants are providing one of the English Language Proficiency Test benchmark.

Thus, I applaud Australia’s DIBP in re-introducing the visa office requirement with English Proficiency requirements under SSVF. It is a low requirement but anyways an essential component. Most institutions may have higher score requirement anyways. I am aware that it will not apply to the streamlined applications even now but in the Indian context, bulk of the institutions will be AL2 and thus will need to meet the DIBP norms. The institutions that are able to have their applicant streamlined can still waive the English norms but I am sure that these institutions will be extra cautious now. If they are not, they risk being moved to a lower assessment level where it becomes mandatory anyways.

I know that some of you may indicate that even under the current system, non-SVP applicants were required to meet DIBP set English requirements. However the difference is that currently ALL Universities, most TAFE and several Private Providers are under SVP and thus able to waive English requirement. Under the SSVF, there will be many Universities too unable to streamline students from the India or Nepal or Bangladesh and thus an English Proficiency Test becomes a non-waivable requirement.

14 Comments

  1. Absolutely Ravi. Fantsatic news. Many agents in Hyderabad were unhappy with me when I raised this concern during the Visa office meeting in Hyderabad couple of months ago. But, now they feel that the decision of many Uni’s reintroducing IELTS is good and the now they are getting quality applications. Still there are many loop holes and DIBP needs to look into those areas also, especially changing providers after 6 months.

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  2. True that.

    I’m not sure how will they react to those applications where an AL3/AL2 (INDIA/THAILAND/COLUMBIA) citizen international student has studied Diplomas in a an English native country like Canada, NZ or Wales with an expired IELTS or no IELTS and want to continue studies further in AU.

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      1. Hello, I found your blog while I was searching for few words on Google as I’m quite unclear on few points. Long story short- My brother was able to move from Scotland to Brisbane in a 2 years of Diploma package course straight after finishing 1.5 years of Hospitality studies and his IELTS was expired already by 1 year at the time he applied it for. The institution was not even SVP and we hold Ecuador passport (assessment level 3 country, non-English speaking).

        I’m studying at an institution here in Ontario – Canada in 1 year course and want to move to Brisbabe as soon as I finish studies.
        Will I be able to get in there similar as my brother as neither he was a streamlined visa applicant and nor am I going to be with these new changes with new simplified visa frame instructions.

        Note- Brisbane institution is non-svp as of now – assuming it might fall in Level 3 category after 1 July.

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        1. SSVF regulations are effective from July. From my notes from the SSVF briefing, the following will be the English requirement assuming your application is not being streamlined:
          English Language Requirements

          – Documentary evidence only required for R students

          – Two options to meet English requirements:

          o Evidence of acceptable test score (see below)

          o Exemption category

          – Test Scores:

          o Direct entry 10 weeks ELICOS 20 weeks ELICOS

          o IELTS 5.5 5 4.5

          o TOEFL paper 527 500 450

          o iTOEFL 46 35 32

          o Cambridge 162 154 147

          o Pearson 42 36 30

          o OET Pass

          – Exemptions:

          o Nationals of certain countries (UK, USA, Ireland, NZ, Canada)

          o DFAT and Defence students

          o ELICOS, Schools, Secondary Exchange and PGR students

          o Study of more than five years in English in certain countries

          o Completion of study in Australia in the two years prior to application.

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  3. Ravi

    Very well explained in detail and we are pleased by DIBP taking this pragmatic step because we all know how easy it is to get MOI doc from institutions. Some Institutions will be able to streamline without the English Proficiency Test recognised & required by DIBP but they run the risk of moving down in the assessment level which will hurt them in the long run. They should think of the bigger picture !!

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  4. Well written Ravi.
    A quote “We can do things the cheap way, the simple way, for the short-term and without regard for the future. Or, we can make the extra effort, do the hard work, absorb the criticism and make decisions that will cause a better future”. Mike Rounds

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