Terms of Reference Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program

Australia’s Student visa program enables international students to study in Australia. The program facilitates the continued strength and competitiveness of the international education sector while ensuring appropriate integrity measures are maintained.
The Government values the important economic and cultural contribution made by the international education sector. In the past decade the sector has undergone rapid growth. The number of Student visas granted has more than doubled from 108,000 in 1997-98 to 269,828 in 2009-10.
The integrity of the Student visa program has been challenged in recent years by the promotion of Australian education courses as a pathway to permanent migration.
The Government reformed the Skilled Migration program to clearly affirm that while there are opportunities for international students seeking permanent residency in Australia, there is no guaranteed pathway. These changes have delivered a Skilled Migration program that is now driven by the skills needs of industry and employers, rather than the educational choices of international students.
More recently, the international education industry in Australia has come under increasing pressure as a result of the rising value of the Australian dollar, the ongoing impact of the global financial crisis in some countries, and increased competition from other countries in the international education market. The sector has also faced negative publicity in the wake of several attacks on international students and the closure of some international education providers.
While Australian education is already highly regarded, the Government is focused on driving reforms to further improve quality. Building Australia’s reputation as a provider of quality education is the key to strengthening the competitiveness of our international education sector.
In this context it is timely to review the framework underpinning the Student visa program to ensure it is well positioned to respond to current and future challenges.
The Government has appointed the Hon Michael Knight AO to undertake a strategic review of the Student visa program. The Review will report to Government by mid 2011.