Quality education needed to encourage overseas students

Date: Jul 17, 2012

Migration lawyers could see a fall in business from Chinese students unless efforts are made to improve the higher education sector, an expert has warned.

David Finegold, senior vice-president for Lifelong Learning and Strategic Growth at Rutgers University, explained to the Sydney Morning Herald that Australia's dominance of the Asian market is slipping.

The report shows that overseas student numbers have declined by 22 per cent since their peak in 2008-09, despite the amount of students leaving China increasing by 20 per cent per year.

Professor Finegold continued: "There's a huge hunger for high-quality opportunities at all levels - TAFE, higher education and graduate degrees.

"But the question is going to be whether Australia can recover and really reassert its position where it was an early leader."

Belinda Howell, general manager of sales and marketing at UTS:Insearch, acknowledged that Australia used to be an accessible and affordable destination for students, which is no longer the case.

Instead, students are seeking opportunities in the US, which has in many respects replaced Australia as an attractive prospect for those entering into higher education.

Although Australia may have more lifestyle factors working in its favour, this is unlikely to appeal to the Asian market.

Ms Howell commented that people are in search of more than just sun, surf and sand.

She acknowledged: "Chinese parents and students are much more goal-oriented than that. They are much more focused.

"The first question they ask agents is what is a good career for my child. Then it's what course do they have to do to get that career. And then, how much money will they earn and will they get a job."

Australia recently introduced a number of changes to the thresholds that must be met by students before they can enter the country for educational purposes.

Applicants are required to demonstrate that they have a return airfare to Australia, as well as the ability to meet the course fees during their time in the country.

They are required to show that they are able to meet living expenses of $18,610 per year, in addition to $6,515 per annum for any partner they bring over.

Decision makers at the immigration department will take a number of factors into account when deciding whether to approve a visa, including the applicant's previous financial and immigration history.

Their source of income may also be subject to checks before a visa is granted.