International conference addresses student visa issues

Date: Feb 20, 2012

The ongoing changes wrought by the Knight reforms have been the subject of a recent two-day event held in Victoria.

Hosted at Sumac in the Docklands district of Melbourne on February 14 and 15, the International Higher Education Conference (IHEC) was aimed at giving tertiary education administrators and facilitators unparalleled access to advice from a number of authorities.

In particular, the changes made to the student visa system as a result of the Knight reforms were covered in detail, including the ways that education providers could assist in keeping net overseas migration (NOM) numbers at a fairly neutral level.

For universities and colleges, the alterations have come as a welcome shift, as the tertiary education system is able to benefit greatly from full-fee-paying travellers.

As lawyers in immigration can tell you, the linkage between the student migration scheme and the standard visa framework has been removed as part of the Knight reforms, while at the same time remaining uncapped.

This was in response to the sudden growth experienced in 2008 and 2009 which saw international enrolments skyrocket with what has been described as "unsustainable" momentum, which in turn impacted on NOM statistics.

Unfortunately, the 315,000 extra individuals had a flow on effect to the rest of the migration system, which was limited in the number of visas it was allowed to issue.

In addition, it put a strain on the resources of institutions that were unable to meet demand without massive infrastructure investments - and some people attending these colleges and universities felt that the quality of education provided began to suffer.

As a result, there was a notable decrease in enrolments in 2010, as less student enrolments were received - leaving those providers that chose to undertake redevelopment projects with a substantial shortfall in the fees they received.

With international student visas no longer linked to NOM, it has fallen on the universities to understand and meet "the needs of the international student", as the IHEC website states, as well as a range of other responsibilities.

"Following the Knight Review it is vital to understand the changes in compliance and develop an internal risk assessment framework that is right for your institution," explains the site.

"This conference will share insights and discuss challenges around managing risk and providing quality to continuously improve international education in Australia."

In cases where a university or college needs more information on the new obligations, an immigration lawyer listed with the Migration Agents Registration Authority can be a valuable point of contact.