|Very different priorities
n the month since I last wrote this opinion column, a lot has happened. Both the UK and Australia have seriously changed the entire landscape of their education export industries because of official intentions to tidy up the industry and strengthen the efficiency of their visa systems.
The outcome of the student visa system review in the UK and the changes to the General Skilled Migration programme in Australia and ongoing review of the Esos Act are both not a fait accompli with further clarification of rules expected in both countries (see pages 6 and 40).
However, although educators in both countries are concerned and cautious about what 2010 may now bring in terms of business, it should be noted that there is very real distinction in the approaches of the two governments. The British government consulted with the industry, but then came up with a set of rules that left stakeholders aghast, with the impression that there was no consideration of or protection for a successful British business sector. Requiring any potential non-EU student who would like to study English in the UK for longer than six months to have an intermediate level of English when they apply cannot be considered conducive to increasing business.
On the other side of the world, the Australian government has severed the link between education and migration, making it clear that successful migrants will have to jump through more hoops from now on; however, all of its other planned or upcoming changes are aimed at strengthening the reputation of its international education industry and ensuring that student welfare is placed at the centre of consideration.
In fact, in stark contrast to the UK, the Senate Inquiry in Australia recommended a re-appraisal of the 20-hour per week part-time work limit with a view to increasing this figure (page 7), at the same time that the UK has revised its limit downwards to 10 hours per week! And, in my opinion, while the UK seems to have a low regard for work experience when not part of a degree (“such courses are attractive to economic migrants”, said Johnson), Australia is reviewing its points test for migrants and assessing whether sufficient points are awarded for work experience and excellent English!
The UK must take solace in the reaction from agencies, many of whom stated that a toughening up of requirements would not necessarily put off students. However, notably, those agencies that did say there would be a drop-off for the UK invariably singled out Australia as a beneficiary.