Tertiary Education Quality and Standards

The Australian Government is establishing a new national regulatory and quality agency for higher education, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). TEQSA will be established this year as an independent body with powers to regulate university and non-university higher education providers, monitor quality and set standards. Its primary task will be to ensure that students receive a high quality education at any of our higher education providers. TEQSA will register providers, carry out evaluations of standards and performance, protect and assure the quality of international education and streamline current regulatory arrangements. It will join together the regulatory activity currently undertaken in the states and territories with the quality assurance activities currently undertaken by the Australian Universities Quality Agency.

TEQSA is will be one element of the new regulatory and quality arrangements:

* the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA),
* a new National Register of Higher Education Providers,
* a new Higher Education Standards Framework, and
* the My University website.

Overseas students face biometric scans

The move has raised concerns, with overseas student educators calling for it to be handled sensitively to ensure negative attitudes to Australia as a study destination are not compounded by the initiative.

The Immigration Department last week confirmed that biometrics would be extended from detainees and asylum-seekers to most types of offshore visa applications, including student visas.

The screening process has been described by the Immigration Department as a discreet, non-intrusive examination that captures a digital facial image and 10-digit fingerprint scan.

The first stage of the trial will be applied at two locations. It then will be extended to missions across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East in line with procedures already operating in Britain, the US, Japan and parts of the Middle East.

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People applying for English-language and schools-sector visas as well as for vocational education, higher education, postgraduate research and AusAID visas will be among those subjected to biometric scanning, an Immigration Department fact sheet says. .

“National security and fraud risks in the visa caseload” would guide the biometric collection categories, a department spokesman said.

The move follows the Immigration Department’s receipt of a confidential risk assessment of Australia’s student visa program last year that raised concerns about identity fraud in higher and vocational education visas.

In 2005, some British universities and colleges of higher education were suspected of becoming safe havens for terrorist ideas and recruits, according to London-based think tank the Social Affairs Unit.

At least two of the London bombers, who killed 52 people in July that year, had studied at British universities or higher education colleges, the Social Affairs Unit noted.

Dennis Murray, executive director of the International Education Association of Australia, said biometric scanning was an increasingly important tool in the fight against identity crime, and “potential students are part of that picture”.

But it would be important for the matter “to be handled sensitively at overseas posts so as not to reinforce the current unfortunate perception that international students are not welcome in Australia”, he said.

Council of International Students Australia president Robert Atcheson said clear rules were needed to protect individuals’ privacy.

Biometric data collection will begin at selected locations in the next seven weeks; these will be announced as they are rolled out.

The government has come under pressure for not naming the countries to be targeted but it has argued it doesn’t want undesirables exploiting the information before the system is in place.

Chris Bowen retreats in the face of Marcos Berenguel ruling

MMIGRATION Minister Chris Bowen has abandoned his attempt to limit the fallout from a High Court decision that helps foreign students win skilled migration visas.

In the case of Brazilian graduate Marcos Berenguel last March, the High Court overturned the refusal of a permanent residency visa.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship had failed to take into account Mr Berenguel’s up-to-date English test results because of an absurd and unfair reading of the rules, the court said.

Lawyers said the case could help thousands of overseas students already in the queue for skilled migration, a visa category the government has tried to reform following a student-driven blow-out.

Federal magistrates went on to apply the Berenguel ruling to other visa categories, prompting the minister to launch Federal Court appeals to try to limit the fall-out.

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Last week, Mr Bowen discontinued an appeal in the case of Ratan Kumar Banala. The week before, an appeal in the case of the Habib family was discontinued. A full bench of the Federal Court had been due to hear the Habib appeal last Wednesday.

A departmental spokesman cited legal advice as the reason and confirmed the minister no longer had any Berenguel appeals on foot.

Sydney immigration lawyer Peter Bollard said: “It shows that the ripples of Berenguel are still spreading out and it will be good news for a lot of people who were sweating on the outcome [of the appeals]“.

In the Berenguel case, the department refused to accept an English test result that came in after his application for permanent residency as a skilled migrant. Under the rules, Mr Berenguel had to show results from “a test conducted not more than two years before” the visa application.

But there was hot demand for an International English Language Testing System test and Mr Berenguel could not book an exam until a month after his visa application.

The High Court said the rules simply meant he had to show “recent competency” in English.

The case has created a boom in retesting because there are delays between visa application, a decision by the department and any review by the Migration Review Tribunal. Under the Berenguel ruling, former students can take tests right up to a tribunal hearing.

Migrant skills go to the top of the list

THE points system for skilled migrants that notoriously preferred hairdressers over Harvard scientists is about to be abolished.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is scheduled to announce in Sydney tomorrow a new points system in keeping with wider reforms to skilled migration.

The reforms shift the emphasis to high skill levels and employee sponsorship, making it harder for overseas students with low-quality Australian qualifications to secure permanent residency.

Stricter rules for skilled migration have damaged the business model used by private colleges and universities to attract students and fee revenue.

In China, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans rejected any suggestion the commonwealth should compensate education providers for lost income.

“It’s not about us making up the shortfall. I mean, universities are a business,” he told the HES.

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“Some universities have gone into the international student market in a larger way than others.”

An officially sanctioned and relatively easy pathway from local qualification to permanent residency as a skilled migrant helped create a multibillion-dollar export education industry.

Now, graduates will have to fit within July’s new skilled occupation list, which gives prominence to high-skill jobs in health and engineering, and pass a strict new points test.

“The current weighting of points test factors leads to perverse outcomes such as the situation where a Harvard qualified environmental scientist with three years’ relevant work experience would fail the points test, while an overseas student who completes a 92-week course in a 60-point occupation [such as cookery or hairdressing] would, with one year’s experience, pass,” says a discussion paper issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

The test gave an advantage to low-skill occupations on the Migration Occupations in Demand List, which was axed in February by Senator Evans when he was immigration minister.

Monash University researcher Bob Birrell said a reformed points test would allow the government “to apply a more discriminating filter to select the best applicants”. This was possible because earlier decisions had slashed the number of points-tested places available while the number of former students seeking those places had risen sharply.

The discussion paper says in these circumstances, “Australia can, and should, select the best and brightest migrants for independent migration”.

Senator Evans said universities understood the danger of becoming too reliant on one market.

“I think most of them have managed that risk quite sensibly over the years,” he said. “They know they’re vulnerable to such movements, as other industries are, and they’ll just have to manage that as they work through the issues.

“But the fundamentally important issue at the moment is that the appreciation of the dollar is impacting on our export industries. It’s going to impact on education. But it’s not a question of the government picking up the tab for that lost revenue. They’ll have to adjust their businesses.

“My role is to try [to] support them by encouraging participation in international education in Australia.”

February’s discussion paper floats possible changes to reward superior levels of English and applicants with higher degrees. It also flags a relaxation of the emphasis on youth, saying the test “does not adequately recognise the trade-off between age and work experience, particularly for highly skilled professionals”.

It canvasses a possible end to the points bonus enjoyed by those with relatives in the country or with Australian qualifications.

The paper says local qualifications attracted extra points because of “the general quality” of Australian education and the fact studies were undertaken in English.

The poor English of foreign graduates from Australian institutions was one of the triggers for reform of skilled migration.

Maurene Horder, chief executive of the Migration Institute of Australia, said the new points system was keenly awaited.

She said students and the market were anxious for clarity after a year of upheaval.

Sydney immigration lawyer Peter Bollard said reform was necessary since the old points test was not performing as expected.

“It meant some people, especially with family sponsorship, could get through with very low skill levels,” he said.

Posted in GSM


The ACT ‘State Migration Plan (SMP) Occupation List identifies occupations that are in demand in Canberra. The occupations
listed do not relate to a specific job vacancy, nor represent a guarantee of a job in a specific occupation. The applicant should
understand that the ACT Government is NOT responsible for finding them employment, accommodation or for providing any
form of financial assistance. Applicants must compete for positions with all people in the labour market as part of the normal
selection process. Success will depend on employer requirements, relevant skills and experience and level of English ability