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Visa, scholarship announcements put regional Australia back on agenda

A busy period in Australia has seen the government’s goal to more evenly distribute international education revenue and alleviate congestion concerns put back on the agenda, after launching several program and visa changes with direct and indirect consequences for overseas students.

Regional Australia is back in focus with a number of changes to visas and scholarship programs. Photo: UnsplashRegional Australia is back in focus with a number of changes to visas and scholarship programs. Photo: Unsplash

"Regional universities and VET providers offer something different to studying in a capital city"

Made throughout early to mid-August, the announcements are the first substantive migration and international education measures from the federal government after the Liberal-National coalition unexpectedly retained power during the May 2019 election.

“International education must remain a key feature of our immigration system”

Among the changes, immigration minister David Coleman announced that the trial of the Global Talent Scheme would be made permanent and expanded to include the Global Talent Independent program to recruit 5,000 highly skilled migrants, with fast-tracked visas.

“Within our annual migration plan, skilled migration is the lynchpin of our approach, accounting for close to 70% of the intake,” he said, adding the education sector would play a key role.

“It stands to reason that the more skilled a migrant is, the better… [and] the education sector supports high skill, high wage jobs – the exact kind of jobs we want to develop. International education must remain a key feature of our immigration system.”

Speaking at the Sydney Institute, Coleman’s announcements stem from March 2019’s Planning for Australia’s Future Population document and provide further details on the planned incentives.

The regional provisional visas included in the document will be spread across two categories, and have 23,000 places allocated, fast-tracking permanent residency within three years for migrants living and working in regional Australia.

International students will also still receive an additional year of post-study work for studying and working regionally.

“As part of our regional focus, we also want to attract more international students to choose areas outside of the capital cities,” Coleman added.

Australia’s higher education peak bodies have given their support to the changes to the visa system.

“The Regional Universities Network welcomes the government’s decision to make the Global Talent Employer Sponsored program ongoing,” RUN’s executive director Caroline Perkins told The PIE News.

“It stands to reason that the more skilled a migrant is, the better”

“We welcome opportunities to encourage more highly skilled workers from overseas to work with businesses in regional Australia to fill gaps in the workforce, and help develop more highly skilled Australian workers.”

Vicki Thomson, chief executive of the Group of Eight, said the decision to fast-track visas for highly skilled migrants would benefit Australia’s higher education system by attracting high-quality researchers.

“It is refreshing and rewarding to have our government recognise that the economy and the community will benefit greatly from having world experts live with us and assist us,” she said.

“We need more specialised experts who can help us foster the development of Australian talent, to ensure that we…grow our prosperous society, and with a diverse range of career opportunities.”

Shortly after the visa and migration announcements, education minister Dan Tehan launched the Destination Australia scholarships program, also referenced in the population growth document.

The scheme, which replaced the Endeavour Leadership Program, will provide $19.5 million in funding per year over four years for scholarships encouraging domestic and international students to undertake regional study.

“Regional Australia is a wonderful place to live and our regional universities and VET providers offer something different to studying in a capital city, such as a cheaper cost of living, smaller class sizes, and a unique experience of Australia,” Tehan said.

“These scholarships will encourage more students to broaden their horizons beyond the big cities and will ensure regional communities share in the benefits.”

Unlike the former Endeavour program, providers, rather than students, will need to apply for Destination Australia funding.

The first round of Destination Australia scholarship funding is open and will close on September 12, 2019.

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