Widespread changes to the skilled migration program announced by immigration minister Chris Evans yesterday could do further damage to Australia’s international student industry, according to some commentators.
The government’s long-awaited overhaul gives priority to skilled migrants with a job offer from an Australian employer and better English language skills. There are also streamlined eligibility criteria for jobs and study from July 2010.
Around 20,000 applications lodged before September 2007 will be dumped and applicants refunded at an estimated cost of A$14 million.
Evans said the changes would mean “Australia is able to choose who migrates to this country, based on whether they are going to make a contribution. If they don’t have the English language skills, don’t have the trade skills and can’t get a job, then really, they shouldn’t be eligible for permanent residency.”
He described as “perverse” the current points system which rates a hospitality or hairdressing graduate from an Australian college above a Rhodes scholar. Under the old system, 580,000 foreign students undertook study in Australia last year, a 95 per cent increase over five years.
However, some private colleges warned the changes could see student numbers decline by half. A spokesman for a haidressing college in Sydney told the Sydney Morning Herald: “There’s going to be a catastrophic effect on the employment of Australian workers.”
The decision to dump 20,000 visa applications also received widespread coverage in the Indian media, with suggestions it would add to ill feeling already simmering after a spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia.
The news comes a week after the collapse of English language school GEOS left thousands of students stranded and creditors owed more than $10 million.
For a full explanation of the changes, click here.