By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

Australia’s new government has been making positive noises about the international education industry in its early days, as evidenced by a speech from the Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, at the Australian International Education Conference (AIEC) in Canberra last week.  

“This is the time to begin building the new architecture that will sustain the international education sector through decades of future growth,” proclaimed the minister. He also played to the gallery at AIEC by saying that “it’s vital we have the input of everyone in this room and beyond”.

Minister Pyne claimed that the previous administration had overseen a dramatic drop in the value of the sector, and had overreacted on the issue of student visas. “It was like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut and the whole education industry was damaged.”

Of course fine words and construction metaphors are easy, but the new government will be judged on its policy implementation. In the speech, there was a commitment to finalise the list of non-university providers that are to be offered streamlined visa arrangements, a policy that the industry, and Acpet in particular, has been calling for since the Knight Review. There was also a promise to respond to Chaney Report in full and produce a national strategy.

However, streamlined visa processing is likely to be the first great challenge. Acpet CEO Claire Field has commented on rumours that the list is nowhere near as extensive as the industry was hoping for: perhaps only featuring 20 institutions. Inevitably, wherever the line is drawn, many providers will be upset. A way around this would be establishing a clear set of criteria that institutions can work towards in order to achieve streamlined visa privileges. Otherwise, the process is likely to be seen as somewhat shadowy and political.

Regardless of the political landscape, the Australian international education sector does seem to be on an upward trajectory again, as today’s news story explains, with year-to-date commencements to August 2013 up 7.4 per cent on last year, and enrolments up by 0.8 per cent, albeit fuelled by a substantial increase in the Elicos sector.

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