It is no surprise that foreign students lack English language skills (The Age, 23/1). Australia’s minimum visa standards are lower than those in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom – not as Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson asserts, “comparable to other world-leading education sectors”.
The recent report by Bob Birrell and Katherine Letts at The Australian Population Research Institute – “Australia’s higher education overseas student industry: in a precarious state” – shows clearly how the Group of Eight universities lower their entry standards because they cannot afford to forgo the huge fees paid by overseas students, who now make up close to 40per cent of all new entrants. That changes the whole nature of university culture and the experience offered.
The Age’s report highlights the problems for foreign students struggling to cope, but ignores the impact on quality and fairness for those with an adequate grasp of English. Ask local university students about it and they will tell you how badly it affects the quality of their courses: lower expectations in class, lower standards in assessing grades, group assignments where the same grade is given to every student despite lack of participation or understanding, and limited student interaction and discussion. The solution is not just bridging courses; it is to raise the standards and insist on higher standards for all.
Taking students’ money under false pretences
I am a nurse working in aged care. I graduated from RMIT University in 2004 and worked for it for a year or so, assisting on a casual basis in laboratories with students in the city and at the Bundoora campus. The international students were enrolled at Bundoora and the classes were chaotic.
The students who could not understand English were frustrated, bored and disruptive. I became very disillusioned and felt the universities were just eager to take the money.
I have also witnessed the lot of people on student visas in the workplace. Many carers in the residential aged care sector are studying. Most study nursing but all face the same problem on graduation. Their English does not meet industry standards and they will not get a job here. As far as I can see, the tertiary institutions are taking money under false pretences.
Roger Hyland, Richmond
Pressure on students with grade 4-standard English
I am an EAL (English as an additional language) teacher who prepares some students for the International English Language Testing System. I totally agree that the current visa system of allowing overseas students to come to Australia to study at tertiary level with an IELTS score of 4.5 is wrong. This is perhaps about the equivalent of grade 4 English. We then allow these students to do a 20-week course and expect them to be able to study at tertiary level. It is ridiculous.
David Everard, Nunawading
Struggling to meet families’ ‘crippling expectations’
So international students are “failing to make the grade on language skills”. I have little sympathy for their plight. Proposed changes to assist them are based almost exclusively on an economic argument – they make a significant contribution to the Australian economy and we are willing to erode our standards to accommodate them. Coaching Chinese students taught me what an incredible and, at times, unrealistic work ethic they brought to their studies. Too often they struggled to meet the crippling expectations of their families.
Still, our students get it tough too. Many of them, having just completed a gruelling year of VCE, have to immediately front up to eight weeks of “summer school” in order to secure the score required for entrance into their tertiary course of choice. Instead of watering down our university standards, why don’t we make it mandatory for our overseas students to do a similar “summer school” before they commence their tertiary
International students who speak little English are struggling to keep up with their peers at Australian universities, prompting the Victorian government to call for a review of entry requirements.
Premier Daniel Andrews has written a letter to the National Tertiary Education Union promising to take up the issue of English entry standards with the federal government.
Acting Minister for Higher Education James Merlino said the situation was unfair on international students and teachers.
“International students are a vital part of Victoria’s education system but it’s concerning that some students are enrolled in courses without adequate English language skills to complete them,” he said.
Academics, tutors and students say some international students are struggling to understand instructions in class, complete assignments and communicate with other students.
They say English standards have been set too low and can be bypassed by enrolling in bridging courses.
The National Tertiary Education Union’s Victorian president Nic Kimberley, who has tutored and lectured at many universities and works at RMIT, said many international students at Australian universities lacked the English proficiency needed to succeed.
“This is something that should concern everyone,” he said. “If they fail, they have to repeat and there is often a lot of shame. We don’t want to see international students fail.”
Mr Kimberley said he often received emails from international students begging him to increase their grade to a pass.
“It is incredibly stressful. As someone who teaches students, you do feel very guilty about it because of the high stakes.”
He said while many international students had a strong grasp of the English language, local students tried to avoid working with them for group projects.
The union is calling for a review of the English standards required for student visas and those set by universities for different courses. It’s also pushing for more English language support for international students.
Federal government rules require those wanting a student visa to achieve a score of at least 5.5 in the International English Language Testing System. This test gives students a score out of 9 for listening, reading, writing and speaking and most universities require students to receive a score of between 6 and 7.
But students can also receive a student visa with a score of 4.5 – which means they have a limited or modest grasp of English – if they enrol in a 20-week intensive English course before embarking on their university course.
While they must pass the course, they do not have to resit the international English test.
About one-quarter of all international students enter Australian universities via this pathway.
The peak body for overseas students, the Council of International Students Australia, is backing the calls for higher English entry standards.
The council’s national public relations officer, Manfred Mlestin, said while fewer international students would be accepted into courses, potentially eroding the country’s $31.9 billion a year international student industry, the quality of graduates would improve.
“If a student doesn’t understand what a teacher is saying, how can they finish their assignments?” he asks.
When John Chen* arrived in Melbourne on a student visa, he couldn’t order food in English.
“I would just use pointing, it was horrific,” he said.
The Chinese student spent 18 months at Trinity College in the hope of improving his language skills.
At university, he struggled to understand his lecturers and write essays, and barely spoke in tutorials. He switched from arts to science at the end of his first semester, hoping it would be easier.
While it wasn’t easier, he eventually improved his English by watching Youtube.
Chinese student Adam Zhao* said he failed a subject last semester because of his language difficulties.
He was working on a group assignment with three native English speakers who struggled to understand him.
While Adam has been in Australia for five years and completed two years of high school here, he still struggles with the language barrier.
His communication difficulties have affected his mental health, leaving him feeling isolated.
“I felt like I should be able to communicate, but I couldn’t,” he said.
A recent report by the Coroner considered the extreme stress experienced by some international students, highlighting the case of a 24-year-old Chinese international student who died in a fall that was later ruled to be suicide. He was believed to be suffering from depression and struggling to understand his English-language course.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said Australian universities set English language requirements that were comparable to other world-leading education sectors.
“Many universities have standards for particular courses that go above the minimum standards set by the student visa,” she said.
She said students who passed bridging courses had the English skills required to complete a higher education qualification and succeed.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said it was the responsibility of universities to ensure that the students they enrol had the language skills to participate fully in their education.
“You can judge the quality of Australia’s sector by the number of international students that we attract,” he said.
Vocational placements provide students with the opportunity to apply the theory and skills they learned while studying in a professional workplace.
Under these arrangements students can gain the skills they need to transition successfully from study to work, while giving industry the opportunity to enrich student learning experiences and increase the number of work-ready graduates.
Vocational placements that meet the definition under the Fair Work Act 2009 (the FW Act) are lawfully unpaid. Students completing vocational placements are not considered to be employees and therefore are not entitled to the minimum wage nor other entitlements provided under the FW Act.
What is a vocational placement?
Under the FW Act, a vocational placement is lawfully unpaid if it meets all the following criteria:
There must be a placement. This can be arranged by the educational or training institution, or a student may initiate the placement with an individual business directly, in line with the requirements of their course.
There must be no entitlement to pay for the work the student undertakes.Where a student’s contract with the host business or organisation entitles them to receive money for the work they perform, the vocational placement will likely have turned into an employment relationship. Similarly, work arrangements covered by industrial awards or agreements are not vocational placements.
The placement must be done as a requirement of an education or training course. The placement must be a required component of the course as a whole, or of an individual subject or module of the course. It doesn’t matter whether that subject is compulsory or an elective chosen by the student.
The placement must be one that is approved. The institution delivering the course which provides for the placement must be authorised under an Australian, state or territory law or an administrative arrangement of the Commonwealth or a state or territory to do so. Courses offered at universities, TAFE colleges and schools (whether public or private) will all satisfy this requirement, as will bodies authorised to offer training courses under state or territory legislation.
When all of the above criteria are satisfied, hosts are not required to pay students entitlements under the FW Act. However, a host may elect to provide payment(s) at their discretion and under no obligation.
If the placement doesn’t meet all of the above criteria, it won’t be a vocational placement under the FW Act. However, this doesn’t automatically mean that the person is an employee and entitled to payment. The next step is to determine whether or not the person is in an employment relationship.
For more information on determining whether or not an employment relationship exists see our Unpaid Work Fact Sheet
Katrina is in her 3rd year of a nursing degree. As part of her course, Katrina is required to complete a minimum of 4 weeks’ work experience with a registered hospital in her state in order to graduate. Katrina approaches her local hospital as they have a pre-existing relationship with her university and have regular student placements. The placement is authorised by her university, and Katrina understands it is a learning exercise and that she won’t be paid. As the arrangement meets the definition of a vocational placement under the FW Act, it can be unpaid.
Jayne is in her final year of a mechanical engineering degree and has completed her formal class studies. As a requirement to graduate, Jayne has to organise professional engineering work experience at a business for 12 weeks. While Jayne has to organise the placement herself, the University has strict criteria about needing to assess an employer to ensure her vocational placement provides the relevant learning environment, and gives final sign-off on the placement. As this arrangement meets the definition of a vocational placement under the FW Act, it can be unpaid.
If the business decides to get Jayne to sign an employment contract and pay her wages for her work, it may turn the placement into an employment relationship. If an employment relationship is created, Jayne is entitled to at least the legal minimum rate of pay for the type of work she is performing.
Mitchell is choosing his elective units for the following year’s study as part of his undergraduate degree. One of the electives is a 3 month unpaid placement organised by the university at a host business that provides a structured learning experience related to his degree. This placement counts as credit towards meeting his total course requirement. Because the elective forms part of his course, Mitchell’s placement meets the definition of a vocational placement under the FW Act. As this arrangement meets the definition of a vocational placement under the FW Act, it can be unpaid.
Although Territory women have been outnumbered for decades, enjoying the highest ratio of men to women in the country, it seems many of them are still struck by the old proverb: the odds are good, but the goods are odd.
Not so for Queensland-based questioner Katherine, who’s had a different personal experience.
“I’ve had a couple of friends that’ve gone to work up in Darwin and both of them have come back married,” she said.
“I just wondered if there was something about the Territory or Darwin in particular, that that kind of thing happens more easily.”
That project has now moved into its production phase, employed far fewer people, but at the time of the 2016 Census was still under peak construction.
The Darwin Correctional Centre also falls within the boundaries of Howard Springs.
Territory-wide, there are far more men in prison than women — the population is 93 per cent male, with 1,520 men compared to 114 women as of June 2018 — and the Darwin Correctional Centre has an average population that is almost double that of the Alice Springs Correctional Centre.
The skew towards men in the NT population harks back to the Territory’s history, said demographer Andrew Taylor, from Charles Darwin University.
“This goes back to the sorts of reasons places like Darwin are settled — commonly for strategic military purposes, for resource things, or to just have a presence in the north of developed countries,” he said.
“Through time, as the places become contemporary settlements, we still see that reflected in the population characteristics.”
Dr Taylor said it was very difficult to measure a precise economic impact.
For example, he said, rates of crime for males are higher, males are worse at saving, so they may not be contributing the economy in those ways, and the social networks that males develop are more limited.
“If there’s that imbalance, your stock of females is lower, and given that we’re a younger population, that can impact on the birth rate,” Dr Taylor said.
“Overall, males are a higher turnover part of the population, so it contributes to our churn in some respects, and that has economic costs through businesses and others needing to re-fill jobs all the time.”
Female majority in resources-dominated Canadian province
Dr Taylor referred to other remote, northern provinces overseas that had similar demographics to the Northern Territory, such as the far eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.
The ratio of men to women was fairly evenly split in the region — and in fact, women account for just over 50 per cent of the population, a majority, said Linda Ross, chief executive of the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
But she said the economy of the province is largely resourced-based, focusing on the offshore oil and mining industries.
“In order for any of the mega projects to receive approval in the province they must include Women’s Employment Plans that include women working across all employment fields, as well as a commitment to increase the numbers of women in those fields.”
The evacuation of Darwin
There was a time when the ratio of men to women in the city of Darwin was skewed in its extreme.
In the weeks before Darwin was bombed by Japanese forces in February 1942, it was becoming increasingly clear it was going to be a target, so authorities ordered the evacuation of women and children, old and sick residents, beginning in December 1941.
Official war history recorded that a mere 2,500 people remained in Darwin two months later.
Women who wanted to stay could avoid evacuation by taking jobs considered to be essential, such as typist positions with the army.
Journalist, soldier, and later author Douglas Lockwood wrote in his book Australia’s Pearl Harbour: Darwin 1942 that by February 18, 1942 — the day before the bombing — there were only 63 women left in the city.
He wrote of the hundreds more people that fled following the “destruction and terror” of the Japanese attack.
Mr Lockwood wrote of one group of Top Enders not ordered to evacuate: Aboriginal people, who were instead ordered to “go bush”.
In 2012, 70 years since the bombing of Darwin, historian and researcher Don Christopherson told ABC Radio Darwin about the selective evacuation of Aboriginal people from Darwin.
Those who had both Aboriginal and European heritage were evacuated — others were not.
There were also Aboriginal people living on country in the Top End, like the Tiwi Islands and Milingimbi, who were not evacuated.
Many Aboriginal people did labour for the army throughout the rest of the war, though often Mr Chistopherson said they were paid ‘in kind’, with goods like tobacco, rather than official wages.
There were also the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit, which patrolled the Arnhem Land Coast on the lookout for any sign of Japanese landings.
They were trained to fight as guerrillas if there was an invasion.
Those in this unit weren’t officially enlisted, and it was only in 1992 that the Federal Government formally acknowledged them with service medals and pay.
The NT Government has commissioned further research into how to attract early career women, a key target demographic.
The proportion of men to women traditionally reflected employment patterns, said Andrew Howe, demographer with the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
“When we look back on the 1970s and 80s, the NT’s population really grew, especially from interstate migration, with people coming from other parts of Australia attracted by employment prospects which were traditionally more attractive to men rather than women,” he said.
The NT’s sex ratio is slowly approaching an equal number, he said.
“Again, looking back into the 70s in the NT, we had roughly five men to every four women, or a sex ratio of 125 which has gradually come down to 108.”
Recent ABS population projections anticipate the sex ratio approaching a more even split.
“But where it does get a bit fancy, a bit technical … we consider those trends in terms of fertility, mortality, and migration, so the combined effects of those trends.”
Alice Springs bucking the trend with the arts, health
Darwin may have been a male-dominated city since it was founded, but Alice Springs managed to buck the trend a couple of censuses back.
“Once you start digging down to individual towns and so on, things can change; even at the Territory level the ratio is declining or becoming more balanced very slowly,” Dr Taylor said.
“Because we’re a small population that can flip easily, that’s why the arrival of a relatively small number of females into Alice Springs for health jobs and in the arts sector led to their population flipping.
There is also a higher ratio of women to men in remote Aboriginal communities.
In Tanami, Central Australia, there are 88.6 males for every 100 females, and Yuendumu-Anmatjere, had 88.7 men for every 100 women.
Women on the street at Howard Springs didn’t seem particularly bothered by the numbers.
“[We've] got heaps of mums at school and stuff, so I don’t really see too much of a difference really,” one woman told the ABC when she was asked if she notices a lot of men around the suburb.
“Maybe at the pub, few more blokes there.”
Another woman said: “I don’t really notice. I don’t pay attention … I’ve got children so I’m more making sure they’re still alive.”
One bloke we spoke to hadn’t heard the statistic for his area.
“I’m glad I’ve got a partner then, by the sounds of things,” he responded.
A widespread problem of corrupt migration agents poses a “high risk” threat, and may require greater investigative powers to combat, according to the Department of Home Affairs.
Disciplinary investigations by Home Affairs found some migration agents have swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from desperate clients, while others regularly falsify documents to obtain visas which should never have been issued.
Newly released findings from the probes show eight migration agents were suspended or barred from the profession in the final two months of last year alone, and 34 faced penalties in 2018 for inappropriate conduct.
Assistant Home Affairs Minister Linda Reynolds said she would “not tolerate this kind of behaviour by migration agents who think it is acceptable to defraud clients”.
“The government is working closely with the appropriate authorities to target rogue agents and ensure those who apply for visas are not exploited,” Senator Reynolds said.
In one of the worst of the findings, Destiny Visa migration agent Maryam Shahi was found to have required a $50,000 “bond” to obtain a visitor visa for an Iranian citizen in November 2017 despite no bond being required nor requested by Home Affairs for the application.
Ms Shahi later said she had sought the bond because another migration agent in Tehran had previously helped a client obtained a visitor visa, but that family had refused to return to Iran after the trip and applied for protection, harming his “livelihood”.
In another complaint against Ms Shahi, lodged in October last year, a client known as Ms EGS was also asked for a $30,000 deposit to “guarantee the grant of the visitor visa”.
No application was ever lodged with Home Affairs, and at the time of the complaint, Ms Shahi – who has since had her license cancelled – still owed Ms EGS $9000 of the bond deposit paid.
There were at least five other occasions, according to the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, that Ms Shahi was paid for visa services – once more than $9000 – where no application was every received by Home Affairs and despite the “desperate circumstances” of her clients.
Ms Shahi declined to comment, citing an appeal of the findings to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, but denied any wrongdoing.
Early last year, the federal government tasked Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration with investigating if current laws regulating migration agents were working.
Liberal MP Jason Wood, the committee’s chairman, told the Herald and the Age that the Home Affairs findings were only the tip of the iceberg.
He said more information about migration agents needed to be made available to prospective clients, suggesting the government should adopt a system similar to New Zealand where companies must publicly provide their success rate for visa applications.
“That’s one thing the committee is looking at, but we have also spoken to the Commonwealth Ombudsman about the matters they investigate … if someone overseas wants to complain, they go through them, but we need to make it a lot easier to access,” he said.
“A bigger problem is not the migration agents, but when community leaders start giving visa advice, and that nearly always ends up in tears.”
The inquiry is due to report in the next month.
Home Affairs, in a submission to that investigation, claimed that the threat “posed by corrupt migration agents (both registered and unregistered) are assessed by government crime intelligence agencies as high risk”.
Home Affairs pointed to their lack of access call charge records, data stored on phones, and inability to triangulate phones as “obvious difficulties” in investigating these issues.
It also raised concerns that migration agents did not have to declare what other business interests they had to the Migration Agents Registration Authority as part of their license.
John Hourigan, the national president of the Migration Institute of Australia, said the majority of operators within the industry were “highly competent and ethical professionals”.
Mr Hourigan, who operates Hourigan Visa & Migration Services, said while the MIA “abhors bad or shoddy practices of a few bad apples that emerge within every profession”, it “was very disappointed by the lack of action” by the government to stop unregistered agents.
“(They) appear to be able to apply their trade with immunity from prosecution,” he said.
“The MIA repeatedly reports unregistered operators to Home Affairs and the (Australian Border Force) and we never receive any feedback on compliance activity in relation to unregistered operators.”
“The government’s priority in relation to consumer protection is far too focussed on controlling registered migration agents then it is to stamping out unregistered operators.”
Another agent, Lanshan Gao, an employee of Great Lands Investment, had his license cancelled in December after being found to have made up to 14 “systemic, planned” visa applications where he knew his clients had “no legitimate grounds for seeking protection”.
“By charging a considerable fee to ‘put in’ a protection visa application for his clients without supporting documentation and exerting minimal effort in relation to these applications, has exploited his vulnerable clients,” the disciplinary decision finding reads.
“The agent has manufactured protection visa claims for his clients and in so doing has demonstrated profound dishonesty and a lack of integrity.”
Last year no doubt has been challenging both for Migration Agents as well as businesses trying to fill in skills shortage. The introduction of subclass 482 visa has seen a decline of 28% of sponsored visas granted, leaving businesses with severe skills shortage.
The government’s response is to enter into a Designated Area Agreement (DAMA). By way of background, the Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) programme has been developed to supplement the workforce strategies of states, territories and regions, to support economic performance and help them adjust to changing economic conditions.
The DAMA is a two-tier agreement: the first tier consists of an overarching three-year deed of agreement with a designated area representative setting out occupations, ceilings and concessions; and the second tier comprising individual labour agreements with direct employers.
DAMAs establish collaborative arrangements, with shared roles and responsibilities, between the Australian Government and regional or state and territory authorities.
The overarching nature of a DAMA allows employers streamlined access to a broader range of overseas workers than available through the standard subclass 482 visa programme, without the need to individually negotiate terms and conditions. DAMAs are attractive to small businesses which may not have the resources to develop a labour agreement directly with the government.
Whilst DAMAs vary from state to state, the key elements for DAMA similar to those of a labour agreement, however specifics include:
· The utilisation of labour agreement stream of the TSS programme for businesses enter into a labour agreement with the Australian Government and workers are then granted a subclass 482 visa.
· pathways to permanent residency for DAMA visa holders (including transitional arrangements for existing visa holders)
· a broad range of occupations that reflect skilled and semi-skilled shortages, with no caveats to apply
· English language concessions for some occupations
· salary concessions that in some instances however these are generally specific from state to state, ensuring that worker terms and conditions of employment are not eroded, and state businesses and consumers are not subjected to inflationary costs
· a range of risk and integrity actions to ensure that the rights of both employees and employers are protected
As an organisation at the forefront of skilled migration, at this point in time Northern Territory has negotiated DAMA and NSW submitted a Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) to the Federal Government. As the first of its kind in NSW to streamline the visa application process, the DAMA is set to make it easier for migrant employees and employers to fill vacant positions.
As mentioned earlier, DAMAs are custom-designed arrangements which support a tailored, regional response to labour needs. They are an important tool in assisting regions to manage workforce strategies that support local growth. The over-arching nature of these agreements allows employers targeted and streamlined access to a broader range of overseas workers than allowed under standard State and National skilled migration programmes. The DAMA will negotiate terms and conditions, cutting down on individual employer visa worker hiring costs.
Similar to Labour Agreements, DAMA’s are granted for five years.
Businesses can access the DAMA if they are actively operating in a particular state and:
· are viable and have been operating for at least 12 months
· have no history of not meeting its obligations to employees
· are looking to employ overseas workers to fill full-time positions with duties that align with one of the occupations on the State Specific DAMA list
· can demonstrate they cannot fill the position locally with Australian citizens or permanent residents
· can provide terms and conditions of employment to overseas workers that are in accordance with those offered to Australian workers employed in the region.
The Department of Home Affairs has just released their first Skill Select Invitation Round data for the new migration year 2018/2019. Among this is advice that subclass 189 and 489 family sponsored invitations will be issued once on the 11th of each month. This is a change from last year when invitations were issued every two weeks.
Invitation numbers have increased
In good news, Invitations for 189 occupations have increased by almost 40 percent from 600 places per month to 1000 places per month.
Point scores for non pro-rata occupations have decreased
The points score for non-pro rata 189 has also decreased to 70 points, down from 75 points at the end of last program year.
A person who has lodged an Expression of Interest for a 189 non pro-rata occupation can expect to wait approximately 4 months for an invitation if they have reached 70 points.
489 Family Sponsored visas
There is no change to 489 family sponsored applications.
Invitations for this subclass remain at 10 per month, requiring a point score of 80.
Most of the pro-rata occupations were invited in less than 4 weeks. It is possible these scores may drop in the upcoming rounds. We will be able to better gauge trends in the next few months.
Pass mark increased
The pass mark for all applicants increased from 60 to 65 on 1 July 2018.
That means that people who do not have a minimum point score of 65 points will not be considered for the 189, 190 or 489.
What options do you have if you have not reached the points score required?
State and Regional Sponsorship
State sponsorship is an exciting option for many clients who have not been able to reach the point score for occupations under the 189 pathway.
More occupation choices
While applicants for the 189 must have an occupation on the MLTSSL, states and regions may be able to sponsor for MLTSSL, STSOL and ROL occupations. This means that there may be a greater opportunity for a migration pathway by seeking state or territory sponsorship.
What is the point score for 190 and 489 regional?
The point score for most states and regions is still 65, including either:
5 points for state sponsorship
10 points for regional sponsorship
Some states such as Victoria and NSW places are competitive for some occupations and a higher point score may be required.
Other ways to increase your points
Additional points many be awarded in a number of ways including, but not limited, to:
Increasing your level of English
Higher education in Australia or overseas
Years of work experience in Australia or overseas
More international students than ever are remaining in Australia for up to four years on graduate work visas following their studies.
The explosion has prompted concern from Labor, but the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU) has argued they are not displacing other workers.
In March 50,000 international graduates were in Australia on the 485 visa — an increase of more than 16,000 in just 12 months.
Labor’s immigration spokesman, Shayne Neumann, said international students are an important contributor to the economy, but rapid growth in a visa subclass could be cause for concern.
“It’s incumbent on the Turnbull Government to ensure the integrity of Australia’s migration program,” he said.
Last year 350,000 international students were enrolled in universities — an increase of 100,000 in the preceding three years.
The lag between a student’s enrolment and graduation, and the grant of subclass 485 visas, means the number of international graduates working in Australia is set to rise even further in coming years.
International students are allowed to work for 20 hours per week during semester under their visa, but no time or occupation restrictions apply to the “post-study” graduate visa stream.
This provides a visa of two years following study — or up to four years for some higher qualifications — to those who complete degrees of at least two years.
The visa may assist some towards a pathway to permanent residency, but the majority of international students return to their home countries.
‘Very high value people’
ANU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt told that the visa provides “flexibility” and “financial incentives” to students.
“But it also means the graduates we have here, who are incredibly well trained, have the opportunity to contribute to the Australian economy,” he said.
A 2015 report from the Productivity Commission stated “there is little doubt that immigration has boosted the supply of youth labour” and “continued monitoring of the impact of immigration on youth and graduate labour markets is warranted”.
Since this report was released, the number of temporary graduate visa holders in Australia has more than doubled.
Tweaks to the visa in 2013 gave longer and less restrictive post-study work rights to university graduates than those in vocational training.
According to the 2016 i-graduate International Student Satisfaction Survey, the opportunity to work in Australia following study was more important to students than the opportunity for part-time work during study.
This survey, partly funded by the Department of Education and Training, found the following factors were most important to students coming to Australia:
reputation of the qualification,
reputation of the institution, and the
reputation of the education.
Teacher reputation, opportunities for further study and social life were factors ranked immediately above the opportunity to work in Australia following studies.
International students from India have been left in the lurch due to the ACT government’s sudden change in their visa policy.
Earlier this year, Kanish Chug moved to Canberra and enrolled himself in a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) course at the University of Canberra, in the hope of getting five additional points required to beat the high competition in his occupation for skilled migration to Australia.
“I have 75 points. The competition is very high. Only a fixed number of accountants are invited each year and the cut off is very high. When I heard Canberra was giving state nomination for those who lived here, I moved to Canberra hoping it will help me gain five more points,” Mr Chug told.
In July 2017, the ACT government opened up state nomination for occupations which were not on the “open” list of in-demand jobs, if they already lived in the ACT.
If a person could prove they had been living in the ACT on a student visa or graduate visa for at least 12 months and had completed a Certificate III or higher education at a local institution, they could qualify for state nomination.
This prompted many like to move to Canberra.
Anjali* moved her family from Perth to Canberra upon learning this.
“I sold off everything and moved here in September 2017. I have enrolled myself in a Professional Accounting course here, paid thousands in fees, just to become eligible for state nomination.
“And now they tell us, this policy is no longer available. I can’t tell you how depressed I am,” she said.
Anjali and Kanish told that the news has been devastating, saying it’s leaving their futures bleak.
“I paid $50,000 for my Master’s degree in Melbourne. I enrolled myself in another degree to get five extra points and have paid thousands in fees.
“It is devastating to learn that all my effort to move to Canberra, my hard earned money was for nothing,” Kanish says.
Anjali says she would have qualified in September for state nomination had they not changed this policy suddenly.
“I don’t know what to do now. I feel cheated,” she says.
Anjali and Kanish are not alone.
Hundreds have signed an online petition demanding the ACT Government honour its original promise and allow international students enrolled in an ACT institution on or before the 29 June 2018, to apply for ACT nomination under the policy in place on that day.
This petition has received over 600 signatures over two days. “ACT government to review visa program”
The ACT Government has now said it’s looking at a ‘more flexible way’ to help people who had moved there.
“Given that demand for the program is expected to continue to increase, there will be a need to find a more flexible way to manage the program within the limitations imposed by the Department of Home Affairs,” The Canberra Times quoted a spokeswoman of Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
Visa applicants in skilled migration program are keen to gain extra points after the federal government announced significant changes in the point system from 1 July 2018.
Australia’s skilled migration program is a points-based system designed to attract highly qualified and experienced professionals to best meet Australia’s skills needs.
There are a number of skilled migration visas that require applicants to score a minimum number of points to qualify for permanent skilled migration.
After the government’s recent announcement of increasing points threshold from 60 to 65, many prospective applicants are looking for alternative ways to boost their chances in the General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa point system.
Some of the new applicants now rely on boosting their points by clearing language test from National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).
NAATI offers Credentialed Community Language (CCL) Test that gives 5 points to the prospective applicants for their point-based GSM visa.
CCL Exam determines an applicant’s ability to interpret the conversation between two speakers speaking different languages.
Harpal Singh is a NAATI accredited translator and interpreter for Punjabi-English and he also serves as a member of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) and the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI).
Mr Singh told SBS Punjabi that in the last month only there has been an increase in the number of people who wish to take NAATI’s CCL test to gain five points for skilled migration point test.
“This follows government’s recent amendment to the point test threshold, and now everyone is keen to meet the desired criteria by taking up this examination,” he said.
“There’re two options, either you score 7 each in the English proficiency test IELTS or you clear NAATI’s CCL test. Often people find the second option easier as it is conducted at a conversational level compared to the academic nature of IELTS.”
Mr Singh explained that it should be clear that an individual who passes a CCL test is not certified to work as an interpreter or translator.
“This system is designed to benefit people who have multilingual skills. It is only supposed to help them gain five bonus points for their points-based visa applications made to the Department of Home Affairs. This does not provide them with a work opportunity in this field,” he says.
“The overall pass rate of the CCL test is above 50% and that’s why we see a large number of applicants opting for this test.
“It looks quite promising compared to the pass percentage of the test conducted to get certification as an interpreter or translator, which sits well below 15%.
Mr Singh explained that an overwhelming number of candidates take the CCL test lightly and come unprepared for the exam. “Just don’t be overconfident… It is only the practise that will make you through, so put some time and sincere effort if you wish to succeed,” he suggests.
Melbourne-based migration agent told that the recent change in the point test could be attributed to the high calibre of prospective applicants who express their interest in the GSM program.
“I often deal with Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu speaking clients from Indian-subcontinent and I see a huge interest in them to take the NAATI test to gain 5 extra points,” he said.
“The test success rate seems ok but the problem lies in registering for the examination. My clients are struggling to book sessions as there’re no seats available until December.
“It seems like a poorly organised system. I went to check NAATI’s Melbourne office who suggested they don’t have enough resources or manpower to cope-up with this huge increase in the number of applicants.
“The applicants who are desperate to gain this bonus may think of taking this test in the less crowded cities rather than doing it in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. But I seriously doubt if there are any seats left in those cities.