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Australia cuts down on ‘high risk’ student visas

With just weeks to go before the new academic year, the Australian Higher Education sector is holding its breath. Record number of international students are applying for degree level courses, but visa refusals for students from some countries are also at an all-time high following a spate of scandals surrounding ‘non-genuine students’.

For the last 15 years visa acceptance levels have stayed at around 90%, according to University World News, but fell to 82% last year. In the six months to December the refusal rate for vocational courses was just 72%.

In a bid to bring down migration figures in an election year, the government has brought in a raft of measures, including increasing the language level required, a cap on working hours, and a ban on moving from high cost courses to cheaper ones.

In 2022-2023 over half the 510,000 migrants entering the country were students, a 60% rise on pre-COVID figures, increasing the pressure on accommodation in the middle of a national housing shortage.

Similar pressures have seen government driven cutbacks in both the UK and Canada, with the latter reacting to a major scam where students were duped by agents into enrolling in cheaper non-visa courses when they arrived in the country.

Australian immigration authorities have gone back to their tradition of cracking down on numbers from high-risk countries. While visa acceptances from low-risk, high income countries, like Singapore and Taiwan have risen, 40% fewer applicants from India, Pakistan and Nigeria, are getting through.

For 30 years Australia ran a visa system which made visa applications tougher for students from ‘high risk’ countries. The definition of high risk was based on the drop and overstay rates for different nationalities over the previous few years. This was dropped some years ago.

But it looks to be back on the agenda in Australia: will Canada and the UK follow their lead?

Image courtesy of Dan Freeman
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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