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Australia reveals post-study work extension and $37m support package

Australia has announced measures to help the country’s international education sector “roar back”, the government has said, with more than $37 million pumped in for providers most affected by Covid-19 and an extension for some post-study work rights.

Vocational Education and Training sector graduates will be eligible for a two year Temporary Graduate visa. Photo: pexels

A recent report also recommended introducing longer three-year graduate visas to help deal with a skills shortage in Australia

The financial package includes $27.8m in regulatory fee relief for 2022, an extension of the current FEE-HELP loan fee exemption until the end of next year, and $9.4m for the Innovation Development Fund to help ELICOS providers to diversify their education offerings into online and offshore delivery.

The visa plans will allow Temporary Graduate visa holders who have been unable to travel to Australia to be able to apply for a replacement visa, while the length of stay on the visa for masters by coursework graduates will extend from two to three years, bringing it level with masters by research graduates.

Additionally, Vocational Education and Training sector graduates will also be eligible for a two year Temporary Graduate visa.

The government added that the visa settings will also extend existing measures for students and temporary graduates to recognise time spent offshore studying online to count towards qualifying for a temporary graduate visa.

“The extension of the Innovation Grants will help English language providers who have been hit particularly hard by Covid”

The plan will “help ensure the rapid return of international students”, said minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge.

“It provides clear incentives for institutions and students and ensures students are not disadvantaged from being prevented from coming to Australia earlier.

“The extension of the Innovation Grants will help English language providers who have been hit particularly hard by Covid.”

In a statement, English Australia CEO Brett Blacker reminded that the latest ELICOS data from August 2021 showed student enrolments down 71% compared to August 2019.

The Innovation Development Fund funding, along with regulatory fee relief for certain fees for Australian Skills Quality Authority, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students registrations, and the Tuition Protection Service Levy, was welcomed as a major win.

“When coupled with the earlier announcements on fully-vaccinated international students being able to return to Australia from December 1 and the ‘no disadvantage test‘ for DHA ELs, secured by English Australia, a major boost to the restoration of our sector has been provided,” Blacker said.

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia highlighted that independent providers support around 85% of the 3.9 million students in vocational training and around 10% of the 1.6 million students in higher education award programs.

“Independent higher education and vocational training providers continue to do it tough, so ITECA was a strong advocate for the extension of this financial support. We’re pleased that this message was both received and acted on by the Australian government,” said Troy Williams, ITECA chief executive.

The continued suspension of the current loan fee that will benefit some 30,000 undergraduate higher education students was also welcomed by the peak body, but ITECA will continue to argue for its permanent abolition.

“The Student Loan Tax is an egregious financial impost that taxes people borrowing to study to achieve their life and career goals,” Williams said.

AAERI president and MD of Global Reach Ravi Lochan Singh said the post-study work move was a “massive change” since it places Australia at par with what is offered in Canada and ahead of the UK.

Vocational students studying TAFE diplomas previously received a 18 months work visa if their skill was considered in shortage.

The proposal is to increase work rights to two years and the requirement to nominate a skill that is on the Skill Occupation List will also be dropped, he said.

“AAERI welcomes these tweaks in the post-study work requirements,” Singh said, noting that the organisation had called on the government to extend length of work rights as well as the types of students eligible.

A letter dated September 4, 2020, from AAERI to minister of Education Dan Tehan urged for international students currently in Australia to be offer an extra year of PSW on completion of their course.

“This will help with the ‘return on investment’ and convey the message that Australia cares.International students who choose to study in Australia are attracted by the PSW offerings,” it read.

The additional year should also focus on larger cities – particularly Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – in addition to the regional focus announced in 2019, AEERI said, adding that it is a “well-established fact” that international students are attracted by PSW provisions.

A recent report also recommended introducing longer three-year graduate visas to help deal with a skills shortage in Australia.

“I remain thankful to the minister and am also very positive that Australia will bounce back very quickly and remerge as the destination of choice for the international students,” Singh added.

The move will “give students more opportunities to gain important work experience in Australia after they have completed their studies”, AECC Global suggested.

“This is a significant change that will make Australia a more attractive place for international students to study,” chief operating officer, Daryl Fong said.

“It is excellent to see students who were affected by the pandemic and unable to spend time in Australia when they finished their studies recognised with replacement temporary graduate visas,” continued chief commercial officer, Jake Foster.

“Australia is rolling out the red carpet for new international students in the months and years ahead”

“Australia is rolling out the red carpet for new international students in the months and years ahead.”

“The changes are targeted to not only support international students but are also a crucial component of our economic recovery and will help us retain and attract skilled workers,” minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke added.

Despite announcing border openings for December 1 earlier this week, 2022 will still be tough, ITECA added.

“Opening the borders put in place the first building block for the recovery of the international education sector, but next year will still be tough. That’s why ITECA appreciates that the Australian government has accepted our advice that continued financial support for the international education sector is required,” Williams said.

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