Visa changes put Australia back on the map for Asian studentsBy Asian Correspondent Apr 27, 2011 5:18PM UTC
There was good news for Asian students looking to study abroad earlier this month with the Australian government’s announcement that it is adjusting visa assessment levels for 38 countries, including many Asian countries. The result of this is that Australia is now more accessible for many students throughout Asia.
This latest move represents a welcome move away from the stringent student visa measures of the last couple of years, measures that represented a serious threat to Australia’s thriving multi-billion dollar international student industry.
This month’s developments have been welcomed across the board by Australian educators and put Australia firmly back on the map as an education destination for Asian students.
Dirk Mulder, Director of Murdoch University’s Office of International Student Liaison and Recruitment, has welcomed the visa assessment level changes.
“The past 12 to 18 months have certainly been more difficult compared to previous years and we’re hoping that this move will make the process of obtaining a visa easier for students to come here. Overall, I think this is a positive development,” he said.
“The past 18 months or so has caused widespread misconception that Australia had closed its doors to International students which just wasn’t true. These changes I hope will bring more consistency in looking at Australia and lift Australia’s reputation as a first class study destination to all global audiences.
“Australia has a lot to offer. We provide a Western style of learning, and students get to live in a multi-cultural environment. Of course the weather is great and it is also very safe.”
As a leader in recruiting international students, Dirk has built a successful career in finding the right fit for students from all over the world, and has some telling advice for any student who is considering studying abroad.
The first step on the path to studying abroad, he says, is making the initial decision to look beyond the course offerings available in a student’s home country.
“Students and their families make the conscious decision that an education abroad is good thing. There are a variety of reasons for this. Studying abroad may provide a better standard of education; help the individual differentiate themselves in their home country by having a qualification that is different from others; or it could be lifestyle choice – the wish to live, study and experience a different country. It’s a bold decision for a young person to leave their home country, but it can be an extremely rewarding one,” he says.
Typically, the next thing a prospective international student does is shop around. Global education has changed dramatically in recent years and students have much more choice than they had before. Of course, you still have the top three – the US, the UK and Australia. However, students also have excellent choices in an emerging suite of destinations in Asia and countries like Canada and New Zealand. Tuition fees and the cost of living will also come into play in the final decision, and these can vary significantly from country to country.
Australia has traditionally been extremely competitive in terms of tuition fees and the cost of living, and the latest visa rules changes signal a move back in this direction. Despite having to compete with big-name universities like Oxford and Harvard, Australian universities continue to hold their own in the international rankings.
Dirk’s own university, Murdoch University in Perth Australia, consistently achieves the top rating from the Good Universities Guide for student satisfaction and is never far off the top of the rankings that matter. And after all, how better rank a university than by the opinion of the students?
“Basically our philosophy identifies the right students for the right fit. I can honestly say that we have students’ best interests at heart. It’s not just about numbers and filling seats, it’s about connecting students with the right opportunities, both here at Murdoch and in their careers after,” he says.
“If you add this to our extremely flexible course offering and our great location, then we think we tick a lot of the boxes on any prospective international student’s wish list.”
Even after making the initial decision to study abroad, and finding a program in the right field at the right price, a prospective student can still be looking at a long list of possible universities. According to Dirk, the most important thing at this stage is for students to get their priorities right.
“The list of possible universities can be narrowed down significantly, depending on personal needs and preferences,” he says. “For example, a lot may depend on age and the level of education the student has. I always ask students: What are the three or four most important things for you when choosing a university to study abroad? Some may want to choose a university near their relatives, while others may like the idea of experiencing life in a certain country or city. You can very quickly start narrowing down the list when you know what your priorities are.”
With excellent universities and more favourable visa regulations, Australia is re-emerging as a winning choice for Asian students.