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Visas and cost could dampen Australia’s growth prospects, agents report

AustraliaThe cost of study in Australia continues to be prohibitive, especially for students in the Middle East and Africa. More affordable institutions in India and Malaysia are gaining traction in these markets, agents report. Photo: The PIE News

"It could be more interesting for European agents to work with the UK if those students will be seen as international students"

Agents at the workshop acknowledged both the Trump effect and Brexit were causing students to seek alternative study destinations to the UK and US, but many said ongoing concerns in Australia could prevent it from benefitting from the shift.

Difficulties with the new Simplified Student Visa Framework, high tuition fees and an increasing cost of living are potential barriers to Australia taking in a higher proportion of international students, agents said.

“It’s more difficult to go to the technical colleges because of SSVF”

“Australia’s always been popular for Vietnamese students, especially now with the implementation of the SSVF, it’s even easier for certain students and certain families to come to Australia,” said Rachied Chidiac, Vietnam operations manager of Russia-based agency Students International.

‘[However], it’s more difficult to go to the technical colleges because of that,” he said.

Under the new visa framework, students can access streamlined or regular visa processing depending on the cumulative risk profile of both the student’s home country and intended study institution.

Vietnam appears to have the highest-risk rating, three, meaning it can only access streamlined processing for institutions with a risk rating of one; most vocational providers appear to be rated two.

The number of international students studying in Australia grew by more than 10% to reach a record high of 554,179 last year, however, other agents similarly commented on difficulties understanding the new SSVF system.

The scheme had a bumpy take off last year when it created a backlog of applications requiring intervention from assistant immigration minister Alex Hawke.

High study and living costs were also cited as a problem area for Australia, with new and emerging study destinations becoming increasingly more attractive to budget conscious students and their parents.

“Even though there are affordable institutions, still, Australia is one of the expensive countries for our region,” said Saeid Hali, managing director of Students First Services, an agency that recruits from the Middle East and Africa.

Hali told The PIE News countries such as India and Malaysia were starting to attract more students because of their lower costs.

“India is considered one of the reasonable destinations for parents with a limited budget,” he said.

“They want their children to have a good education that is at the same time affordable, so they consider India to be good”

“They want their children to have a good education [that is] at the same time affordable, so they consider India to be good, particularly for African students.”

Po Ingvarsson of Your Study Advisor argued taking European students outside of domestic fee schemes in the UK could lead European agents to promote the UK’s international education industry over Australia’s.

“I can’t predict what will happen with Brexit regarding other European markets, but it could be more interesting for European agents to work with the UK if … those students will be seen as international students,” he told The PIE News, pointing to commission as an incentive for European agents to learn more about the country.

Despite the agents’ concerns, the mood around Australia’s competitive edge in the global marketplace is generally upbeat.

Carlos Palacios of Bluestudies International in Melbourne said the Australian government was “opening the doors” to international students compared to other countries, contributing to Colombia’s rise to become Australia’s second largest source country for ELICOS students, behind China.

“To the US, the numbers dropped down a lot because of the last election … I think that is one of the reasons why the numbers are going up in Australia,” he said.

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