Students seeking to study in Australia may soon have a greater range of choice when it comes to accessing educational visas, with new regulations set to govern the admissions of speaking and reading tests.
It has recently been announced that international pupils will be able to submit results from the Cambridge English Advanced test, ETS' Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam and Pearson's PTE Academic from November 5.
Previously, the only results which were allowed came from the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) owned locally by student services provider IDP.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is understood to be working with a number of other providers to develop a standardised level that can be applied across the board.
A spokesman for the DIAC said that the new requirements - that spring from the Knight reforms proposed earlier this year - would begin in the form of an open market for English tests that gets underway on November 5.
He said: "Alternative English language test providers are aware that they are being implemented for student visas at this stage, and will be reviewed for use with other visa programs."
It could mean that the initial measures might be rolled out to other areas - such as those required by skilled migrant workers - at a later date.
This may prove to be good news for applicants currently holding one of these certifications - however, professional advice from an immigration lawyer should still be sought to minimise the chance of any mistakes during the application process.
In further revelations by the department, from next year applicants will not need to prove a base level of competency in terms of communication when seeking a visa to study in local universities - the standards for entry becoming responsibility of the institutions themselves, according to the official spokesman.
While this could be good news for students from a range of countries, the IELTS results are still the only accepted form of English proficiency when applying for a visa with the right to work in Australia
This means that the coveted post-study visa - due for implementation in 2012 - will still require a certain level of comprehension in written and spoken English.
Lawyers for immigration will be able to help applicants determine the appropriate certification required - potentially maximising the chance that an application is successful the first time around.
The DIAC first put forward the need for reform to the student visa submissions process back in 2008 - a time when the international student market in Australia was going through a tough time, with a noted decline in the number of quarterly submissions.