Around 12 universities have now temporarily stopped recruiting students from the states of Punjab and Haryana, according to Ravi Lochan Singh, president of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India.
Edith Cowan University told The PIE News last week that it had made this decision due to an increase in the number of visa refusals from these regions and concerns about students’ academic progress.
In a letter sent to Australia’s education minister, AAERI said the ‘sudden’ decision makes “prospective and genuinely interested students” from these regions ineligible to apply.
The body said that assuming all students from Punjab and Haryana are “high-risk” is “grossly unfair and discriminatory”.
“We find the frequent labeling of a few regions as Red Zone or advising Agents not to enroll any students from the above regions as biased and deter the interest of genuine and good students from that regions,” the association wrote.
“Such arbitrary and adhoc decisions could demotivate the students, agents and could bring down the excellent image of Australian Education across [the] Indian Student Community.”
“The communications disadvantage genuine students simply because they are from certain regions within India”
AAERI called on institutions to give all students a “fair go”.
“Most universities have to safeguard their own selves but they need to know ‘now’ that unknowingly, the communications that disadvantage genuine students simply because they are from certain regions within India borderlines on discrimination,” Lochan Singh told The PIE.
Last year, Australia’s immigration department was concerned about a rise in fraudulent applications from these regions, but the DHA has denied to AAERI that it is advising universities to suspend recruitment.
AAERI raised wider concerns about discrimination, noting that one Australian university does not accept applications from Indian students who are married.
In its letter to the government, the organisation also asked for a review of the genuine temporary entrant requirement in visa applications – a call that has been made by several institutions in a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s international education sector.
The protocol means that immigration staff are likely to reject students who they suspect may be planning to stay in Australia after completing their studies, despite Australia incentivising young people to come to the country with post-study work policies.
AAERI said it should be relooked at to “ensure easy and simpler implementation process” which would simplify applications and speed up admissions.
Peter Chesworth, Universities Australia acting chief executive, said, “Australian universities are in regular contact with government regarding visa processing and respond accordingly to intelligence provided by the Department of Home Affairs.
“The sector is committed to ensuring visa processes are as thorough and robust as possible to maintain the integrity of our systems.”
It comes as Australia cements ties with India via a new qualification recognition agreement which will streamline student mobility between the two countries. Deakin University also announced plans to launch a branch campus in the country.
Australia’s student permit grant rate for Indian students outside the country was 81% for the higher education sector in January 2023, according to data from the Department of Home Affairs.