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Australia levels visa playing field with simpler system

Australia’s government has announced a new student visa framework that will replace Streamlined Visa Processing and the current Assessment Level Framework in a bid to level the playing field across sectors and reduce red tape.

International educators have welcomed the changes saying they eliminate the culture of "have and have-not's" created by streamlined visa processing

Australia’s international education exports continue to boom, showing an 11.2% increase in the number of onshore international students to April last year

This week, Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Michaelia Cash, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, introduced the Simplified Student Visa Framework, saying it will reduce the number of student visa subclasses from eight to two and will introduce a simplified single immigration risk framework for all international students.

“The SSVF will support the growth of the international education sector by enhancing both competitiveness and integrity while extending streamlined processing to all education sectors and all course types,” Cash said.

“SVP served a very good purpose but it is now time to implement a broader, simpler, fairer framework”

“SVP served a very good purpose but it is now time to implement a broader, simpler, fairer framework.”

The new model is set to roll out in mid-2016 following the expiry of current SVP arrangements which only allowed universities and a handful of private providers streamlined visa processing.

Stakeholders industry-wide have welcomed the new system, especially private and VET providers, many of whom were excluded from the SVP list.

“This new model will achieve greater equity in student visa arrangements, and delivers benefits to a broader range of education institutions, including VET providers,” said Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham.

“The SSVF will support the growth of Australia’s international education sector by enhancing both competitiveness and integrity, while extending streamlined processing to all education sectors and all course types, including those in the VET sector.”

Australia’s international education exports continue to boom, showing an 11.2% increase in the number of onshore international students to April last year. The VET sector accounted for 22.5% of total enrolments in the first three months of the year.

“Our strong growth confirms the quality of Australia’s tertiary education and VET sectors and shows recent policy changes by the Abbott Government are helping to make Australia an increasingly popular destination for overseas students,” commented Birmingham.

Representing other sectors, Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia said he welcomes any framework that reduces the complexity of the current system.

“This new model will achieve greater equity in student visa arrangements”

“While SVP has been beneficial, it is unsustainable in the long term. It has created a dichotomy between the ‘haves and have not’ providers and has a high administration cost.”

Pyne said the new system contributes to the objectives of the Draft National Strategy for International Education released for consultation in April and the subject of a roundtable discussion this week with the Coordinating Council for International Education.

Universities Australia, whose CEO sits on the council, said it looks forward to working with the government to develop the specifics of the SSVF.

“It will be imperative that universities are not penalised for operating in new markets where immigration risks are less well known, especially given the aspirations for greater diversity outlined in the Draft National Strategy for International Education,” said Deputy Chief Executive Ann-Marie Lansdown.

“Getting the details right in this vitally significant international education sector is imperative, ultimately producing greater benefits for universities, their students and Australia.”

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