Australia has long been a popular study destination for Indian students, offering a diverse range of opportunities in education. In recent years, this trend has shown steady growth, as statistics depict an increasing number of Indian students enrolling in Australian institutions. However, changes to visa regulations in 2023 have raised concerns among Indian students who fear they may be left out due to these new policies. This article delves into the recent changes implemented by the Australian government and investigates the potential impacts on Indian students.
The Rising Number of Indian Students in Australia:
In 2022, over 1.09 lakh Indian students were studying in Australia, a significant improvement from previous years when enrolment numbers ranged from 33,629 in 2020 up to 73,808 in 2019. This increase can be attributed to the post-Covid era where international mobility restarted its upward trajectory.
New Visa Guidelines and Their Implications:
The guidelines that were recently introduced call, for revisions to the English language standards for student and graduate visas. Now English proficiency test scores like IELTS, TOEFL and Duolingo English Test will require qualifying marks. For a Temporary Graduate visa an IELTS score of 6.5 (previously 6.0) is needed, while a student visa will now require an IELTS score of 6.0 (or equivalent) instead of the previous requirement of 5.5.
In addition to stricter language requirements a new Genuine Student test will replace the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement. This change aims to ensure that eligible students can still pursue their pathways while filtering out individuals whose primary motivation’s employment rather than education. Furthermore, applicants deemed risk will face increased scrutiny and there will be consequences, for education providers.
Additionally, international students must show evidence of higher savings to be eligible for a student visa – reflecting a substantial 17% increase from previous levels, resulting in $24,505 now required.
Impact on Indian Students:
These new guidelines have raised concerns among Indian students who fear they might face challenges in meeting these stricter eligibility criteria. The increased financial and language requirements may now act as a barrier for many aspiring students and limit their chances to acquire education abroad. However, these modifications also indicate the governments dedication to upholding a top notch education system that appreciates students guaranteeing equal opportunities, for those who meet the requirements. As these adjustments will be implemented starting 2024 aspiring students still have time to analyse and adjust to these fresh regulations and enhance their prospects of pursuing their aspiration to study in Australia.
Initial Shock and Reactions
Experts predict that aligning education with outcomes, though essential, will initially cause disruptions. Akshay Chaturvedi, CEO of Leverage Education, a study abroad consultancy, says that Australian universities may face enrolment shortfalls and potential losses in the short term. Meanwhile, experts also believe that addressing the current housing crisis and job market saturation is crucial. However, frequent policy changes can create an unwelcoming environment for international students.
Saurabh Arora, founder & CEO of University Living, a global student housing managed marketplace, suggests that governments should consider projections for the next 5-10 years when regulating policies to provide stakeholders a clear direction for planning.
Emphasizing Quality Students for a Stronger Labor Market
The Australian government’s decision emphasizes admitting genuine students who can contribute to the labor market after graduating. The Migration Strategy report explains that there is a mismatch between international graduates’ qualifications and their employment, with more than 50% of bachelor’s degree or higher holders working below their skill level. Engineering and IT graduates are particularly affected despite skills shortages in their fields.
Australian Universities Welcome the Change
Australian universities appreciate the government’s move to improve the quality of incoming students. Abizer Merchant, Director (India & Sri Lanka) of Macquarie University, says this will not only attract higher-quality candidates but also help them academically succeed, connect with locals, and have positive experiences overall.
Ravneet Pawha, Vice President (Global Alliances) and CEO at Deakin University South Asia believes that stricter rules will ensure only genuine applicants move forward to achieve global academic and professional aspirations.
Professor Tony Travaglione, Pro VC for Global Strategy at the University of Wollongong, adds that these changes were necessary to bring Australia’s migration system back in line with the country’s needs by prioritizing skills while protecting Australians’ interests and acknowledging international students’ contributions to Australia’s success.
New English Proficiency Requirements Impact Students from Smaller Indian Cities
Australian universities have raised their English proficiency requirements, aiming to attract genuine students. However, this decision has brought concern to students and experts who believe it might negatively affect those from small Indian cities.
According to a report, international students and graduates account for the largest proportion of ‘permanently temporary’ migrants in Australia, with 1.08 lakh residing in the country for five or more years. Many of these migrants extend their stay by switching between student and graduate visas. The Migration Review discovered that temporary migrants, including students, are more prone to workplace exploitation. A 2020 study showed that nearly 49% of international students were paid less than the basic statutory minimum wage, while 77% received less than the minimum casual hourly wage.
Students from smaller regions of India who aspire to settle in Australia but struggle with English fluency worry that this decision will hinder their dreams. One 19-year-old from Ludhiana shared his concerns about not achieving a high score due to stricter rules. Others worry about the pressure leading them to miss the mark by one point.
Current Australian students who had just enough scores at the time of their admission also fear that they may have to retake exams like IELTS/TOEFL. A Masters in Architecture student from Sydney, who went to Australia in February 2023, stated that despite living and working there for nearly a year, they haven’t encountered any language barriers and don’t see the need for another test.
The Migration Review found that lower English proficiency could make migrants more susceptible to exploitation. Presently, Australian visa requirements are below those of some comparable countries like Canada. Consequently, they suggested aligning English language requirements for Student and/or Graduate visas with skilled visa requirements.