Recent visa changes may benefit international students currently studying in Australia but may discourage those looking to start their studies here in the near future.
The Australian Government announced the visa changes on Monday (20 July), which included the recommencement of lodging visas offshore in anticipation of borders reopening and changing the conditions around post-study work.
Previously, students could not count remote study towards their post-study work rights in the country.
University of Canberra (UC) Pro-Vice Chancellor International, Lawrence Pratchett, welcomed the announcement for students already studying with the university.
“Before the announcement, current students could study with us online, but it wouldn’t count towards post-study works. That decreased the incentive for students to continue studying with us during this time,” he said.
“For potential students, the visa changes haven’t allowed remote learning to be counted towards post-study work rights so it’s a disincentive for them to take up the offer.
“This could have been managed quite effectively by the government if they limited the amount of the course that could be studied remotely and still count towards the rights.”
Other changes to the visa included waiving the cost of a further student visa if required due to COVID-19 and additional time allowed to provide English language results if COVID-19 disrupted the services.
Professor Pratchett said the university sector and international students had been waiting on the announcement for several months.
“Students have been waiting to hear and we have been waiting for this announcement for a long time,” he said.
“The government has been rather slow in delivering this and it was much more limited than we were hoping for.
“It’s a limited proposal when we think about other countries such as the USA and Canada and their government’s support towards international students.”
There is still no indication of when international students will re-enter Australia, after UC and the Australian National University postponed joint plans to bring a charter flight of students back to the ACT to continue their study.
The universities originally put forward the proposal in mid-June but announced it would be postponed earlier this month due to a second wave of COVID-19 cases arising in Melbourne.
Professor Pratchett remained critical of the federal government’s announcement.
“We were pleased the government has supported the international students in their statements, but we believe their actions haven’t reflected that,” he said.
“The sector will continue to lobby the government on this issue.”