Australian universities, including the University of Wollongong, are advising international students to withdraw their applications due to concerns they might not meet new visa criteria under the government's recently announced migration strategy.
This unprecedented move, offering full refunds on application fees, highlights the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the upcoming changes.Stakeholders in India, a major source of international students for Australia, are particularly worried.
The changes, announced in December 2023, remain largely unimplemented, with details like the "Genuine Student Test" still pending. This lack of clarity is causing delays and higher rejection rates, raising concerns about inconsistent application assessments.
The new strategy promises stricter scrutiny on applications from "high-risk providers" through a dedicated integrity unit. Additionally, two ministerial directions outlining key visa decision criteria based on academic progression, career relevance, and other factors are yet to be introduced.
Visa processing will also prioritise applications based on the risk level of providers, but this feature hasn't been activated despite promised implementation in December 2023.
The impact is already being felt, with a projected drop of over 90,000 student visa holders this year. Indian agency association AAERI urges the government to provide clarity and ensure a smooth implementation of the strategy. Others warn of potential inconsistencies in visa evaluations due to unclear guidelines.
This situation raises vital questions about the impact on universities' finances, their reputation, and ultimately, on the future of international education in Australia. With students facing an uncertain visa landscape, universities are taking drastic measures, and stakeholders are calling for clearer communication and a smoother transition to the new system.
The AAERI criticizes the university's practice of instructing students to withdraw their applications as a means of protecting its immigration risk rating. President Nishi Borra highlights the financial losses incurred by students and the adverse impact on education consultants.
Furthermore, the AAERI argues that student welfare is disregarded in this process, and fair treatment is lacking. The university, however, emphasises its alignment with the Department of Home Affairs and its commitment to ensuring the authenticity of student applications.
A spokesperson for the Wollongong university explains that adjustments in admission processes are made in response to identified compliance risks. Ravi Lochan Singh of Global Reach expresses bewilderment over the university's assumption that students may not meet new requirements, especially since these requirements have not been publicly disclosed.
He advocates for students to have the option to defer enrolment if visas are not obtained in time, emphasising the financial and time investments students have already made in the process.
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