Additional Hurdles for the Australia Dream

Australian govt. brings in new requirements for students like the removal of concurrent study options, increased financial requirements and others

In recent developments, concerns have been raised over the soaring visa refusal rates among Bhutanese students aspiring to pursue higher education abroad, particularly in Australia. Reports suggest that a prominent factor contributing to these refusals is low IELTS scores. The issue gains further complexity as a significant number of international  students who venture abroad for studies later shift their chosen courses, prompting Australian authorities to make crucial policy amendments.

The Australian government, in response to the evolving situation, issued a press release on August 26th 2023, to address the concerns surrounding these trends. A major change announced by the government involves the removal of concurrent study options in the Provider Registration and International Student Management System (PRISMS). This adjustment mandates that students dedicate themselves to their primary course of study for the initial six months before being allowed to enroll in additional programs.

In the official press release, the Australian government stated, “This functionality previously allowed students to enroll in multiple educational programs at the same time. The reason for removing this feature is that it was being misused to bypass transfer restrictions outlined in the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (National Code).”

The primary aim of this change is to uphold the integrity of the education system, prevent the misuse of enrollment options, and ensure fairness for both students and educational providers. The move is expected to mitigate instances of students enrolling in multiple courses as a way to bypass transfer regulations.

Palden Tshering, the President of the Association of Bhutanese Education Consultancies (ABEC) and Chief of Operations at Global Reach, expressed concerns over the recent developments. He highlighted that some education consultants had been promoting strategies such as applying to lower-quality institutions with the intention of manipulating visa applications. He emphasized the importance of selecting reputable institutions to ensure the success of visa applications and avoid complications down the line.

Moreover, the Australian government has taken a series of measures to safeguard the credibility of its international education system and the well-being of genuine international students. Among these measures, a critical step involves closing a loophole that previously allowed students to transition from study programs to work arrangements after less than six months of study. This change aims to prevent the exploitation of study visas for employment purposes.

To address the increased cost of living, the Australian government is raising the financial requirements for international students seeking a student visa. This change, effective from October 1, 2023, necessitates students to demonstrate savings amounting to $24,505. This adjustment reflects a 17% rise from previous benchmarks adjusted for inflation and aims to ensure that students can support themselves financially without resorting to exploitative work conditions.

For applications deemed high-risk, the government plans to subject them to more rigorous assessments, including the submission of additional documents. This measure is intended to curb fraudulent applications and ensure strict adherence to regulations. The government expressed concerns about over 200 education providers with visa refusal rates exceeding 50%, potentially indicating non-compliant or fraudulent practices.

The press release concludes by revealing ongoing considerations for further measures to reinforce the integrity of the international education system. These forthcoming measures will be outlined in the upcoming Migration Strategy, anticipated to be released later this year. Overall, the Australian government remains steadfast in its commitment to maintaining the integrity of its international education sector, addressing the exploitation of international students, and upholding its reputation as a premier destination for top-quality education.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu