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Visa changes ‘set to lure more foreign students’


Australia is welcoming unprecedented numbers of international students in 2015 and changes to the visa rules will stimulate further growth, government ministers said last week.

In a joint statement, Peter Dutton, the minister for immigration and border protection, and Richard Colbeck, the minister for tourism and international education, said almost 230,000 student visas were granted in 2014-15, up 2.6% on the previous year.

Dutton said the introduction of a new international student visa framework from next year – a change designed to make it easier for overseas students to study in Australia – will build further on the growth.

“It will enhance both our competitiveness in the international education market and improve integrity in visa processing.”

Colbeck also welcomed the new data which he said demonstrates Australia’s ongoing success in the very competitive global education market.

“International education was worth over A$18 billion [US$12.8 billion] to the Australian economy in 2014-15, making it our fourth largest export earner by value and a major job creator,” Colbeck said.

“International students make a welcome contribution to the cultural richness of our education institutions and the wider Australian community.”

However, Leon Allen, managing director of government, health, education and social infrastructure at the Commonwealth Bank, warned that the government needs to invest more in an export strategy to capitalise on the large pool of potential students in countries nearby.

He told the Financial Review: “So far we have done well, both from a government perspective and from the perspective of unis [universities] to make Australia an attractive destination for students. That investment needs to be maintained and expanded over time if we are to maintain our competitiveness with nations like China, the United States and the United Kingdom.”

Australia’s first national strategy for international education is being developed to provide a 10-year outlook for strengthening the sector further.

“The strategy puts student experience at the heart of all our efforts, to ensure our international education sector is adaptive, innovative and globally engaged, and highly attractive to modern learners,” Minister Colbeck said.

Of the total student visas granted in 2014-15, 21.9% were granted to Chinese students while grants to students from India also remained high and the number of grants to students from South Korea, Brazil and Thailand also increased from previous years. However, Australia is behind the US, China and the UK as a destination for students from Asia, which has 60% of the world’s students.


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