Sunday, August 7, 2011
“Demand from genuine students isn’t going away. It is growing dramatically,” said Navitas chief executive Rod Jones.
“The reality is that [in 2008-09] there was a whole pool of students that should never have been here. They weren’t genuine students, they were potential migrants.”
Navitas is a major international provider of bridging courses for international students. On Tuesday it reported a 7 per cent fall in second semester enrolments in its university pathway programs across its global network, compared with last year’s figures.
Falls of 14 and 16 per cent respectively in Australia and the UK outweighed strong growth in Canada and Singapore.
But Mr Jones said he expected the industry to eventually rebound to the boom levels of 2008-09, with the recovery based on more sustainable demand from genuine students.
He said international demand for studying abroad was growing. Citing UNESCO estimates, he said the number of students studying abroad was set to grow from 3.3 million in 2009 to 8.2 million by 2025.
The government’s response to the Knight review of the student visa regime will at the very least give certainty to the market, he said.
But the president of the International Education Association of Australia, Stephen Connelly, warned that the current decline would continue without a practical government response to the Knight review – for example, a reduction in the financial commitments student have to provide to get visas.
The government has received the Knight review and is expected to respond in September.
Offshore student visa applications dropped 20 per cent in 2010-11, according to the immigration department’s June quarter summary, but applications from onshore students kept the fall in total visa applications to just 5 per cent.
The report said the fall in applications appeared to be stabilising. But Mr Connelly dismissed this claim as “completely optimistic”.
He said the “churn” from existing onshore students could be expected to dissipate next year. “First semester next year is going to be one of the worst semesters we have had for many years,” Mr Connelly told the HES.
Earlier this year a study commissioned by Universities Australia forecast the number of international enrolments at Australian universities would fall by 3.2 per cent this year, implying a drop in new commencements of 23 per cent.
It expected commencements to largely stabilise in 2012 before returning to growth in 2013.
Flinders university deputy vice-chancellor Dean Forbes said the actual drop this year may not prove to be as much as the UA research had forecast, noting that Flinders was still tracking for some small growth in commencements this year.
But he warned that the visa applications data suggested a recovery may take longer than anticipated.
“Given our pathway providers are still struggling, next year isn’t going to rebound any where near as quickly as we hoped,” he said.
Source: The Australian