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Australia widens window of opportunity

By Zhang Yue | China Daily | Updated: 2012-01-30 17:06

Australia has issued regulations that will enable more international students to further their education in the country.

The new suite of measures was released by the Australian Department of Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations in September and will take effect in mid-2012.

As a result, the student visa application process for overseas students has been streamlined, and the deposit required to study in Australia has been reduced. Language requirements for overseas students have also been eased.

Since Nov 5, overseas students applying for Independent English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) have not been required to provide evidence of their English language proficiency.

Also, overseas students receiving a higher education in Australia will be granted a working visa lasting from two to four years after graduation, as long as they meet the basic IELTS requirement.

"These measures are intended to encourage a sustainable increase in the number of overseas students choosing to study in Australia," according to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

"This change will definitely make Australia a more attractive destination for Chinese students planning to study overseas," says Wang Lan, a consultant from Education International Cooperation Group (EIC), a Beijing-based company that provides services to students wishing to study overseas.

Since November 2011, the company has dealt with more than 4,000 Chinese students considering studying in Australia, a slight increase compared to the same period last year.

As for the International Development Program (IDP), a company founded by the Australian government in 1969 to strengthen teaching and research in Asian countries, the number of students they have dealt with since November has seen a 10 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

"For years, Australia has been a popular destination for Chinese students, because the tuition fees required are comparatively lower and students have a better chance to immigrate," Wang says.

However, in the past few years, many of Wang's student clients could not commence studies in Australia because they did not meet the language requirements, visa processing took a long time and deposit regulations were onerous.

The change in policy is good news for the parents of students wishing to study in Australia, Wang says.

In a report released by the company in January on Chinese students' intentions to study overseas, among the 19,068 families surveyed, 76 percent had an annual income of less than 300,000 yuan ($47,400).

The report also revealed that in 2011, Australia ranked third among Chinese students wanting to study overseas, behind the United States and Britain.

Zhao Xiaoyan, a senior IDP consultant, points out that most students she consulted with wish to work in Australia for some time before they return to China.

Before the new visa regulations, however, only those who were on courses that are closely related to the country's in-need occupations would easily be granted a working visa upon graduation.

Thus, she says, the new measures will attract more suitably qualified Chinese students to Australia in the long run.

A 22-year-old female student surnamed Li, in Beijing, who is planning to do her postgraduate studies in Australia, learned about the policy change several weeks ago.

"According to the previous deposit requirement for my student visa, my family was required to put down 550,000 yuan ($86,850). Now we only need to prepare 410,000 yuan. This is a relief for my parents," Li says.

She also says that the two to four years working visa makes her feel much clearer about her study plans.

"I believe several years of working experience abroad will strengthen my competitiveness when I return to China," she says.

Gaining a competitive advantage is the major reason for Chinese students to study abroad, according to the report by EIC.

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