Oz state to push for reforms in education market

Australian state of Victoria is all set to push for easing visa restrictions to boost its USD 5.8 billion international education market, particularly vocational sector which has been recording severe drop in enrollments.

According to 'The Age' newspaper report, Premier of Victoria Ted Baillieu has blamed Canberra of "effectively strangling" the international student market.

He said that he was now like to push for wider changes to visa restrictions.

Baillieu along with New South Wales premier are expected to use the next Council of Australian Governments meeting to challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard to further ease visa restrictions, with Victoria arguing the changes should be based on the type of qualification students get, not just that it comes from a university.

"The Victorian government is concerned that the Commonwealth have effectively strangled the international education market with a knee-jerk reaction that is threatening a USD 5.8 billion industry in Victoria," Baillieu's spokeswoman was quoted by the report.

"Victoria is developing a number of initiatives to grow our international student market, particularly from key countries such as China and India," she said.

However, the Commonwealth's actions have been inadequate and are threatening this important economic sector," she said.

Recently, the federal government announced changes to the visa rules where in it would fast-track student visas and give foreign students the right to two years of post-study work provided they graduate with a university degree.

Under the Commonwealth's changes, adopted from the Knight review into student visas, foreign students who undertake a university bachelor degree will have access to a streamlined visa system and the right to two years' work after graduating, without a restriction on the type of job.

They would no longer have to prove they have more than USD 75,000 in their bank account, bringing Australia's system into line with other countries such as the US, where students simply declare they have the means to support themselves.

However, vocational training colleges will have to wait on a second review due next year before they see major changes to processing arrangements for their own international students.

Figures from the Immigration Department show offshore grants (visa approvals) for the vocational education and training sector fell by 44.6 per cent between June 2009- 0 and June 2010-11, including a 64 per cent decline from China, and a 90.1 per cent fall from India.

University offshore grants fell by 18.3 per cent over the same period, it said.

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