Melbourne, Jan 23(ANI): Universities Australia, the peak body that represents 39 universities in the country, has said that State and Federal Governments were warned about problems faced by overseas students up to two years ago, but failed to act on them immediately.
The claims come as the crisis over the safety of Indian students worsens, with new figures showing a sharp drop in students applying to study in Australia, particularly from India.
The drop-off is hitting universities hard and more private colleges are expected to close, as it is a serious problem since Australian universities rely on overseas student fees for an average of 15 per cent of their revenue.
Universities Australia chief executive Glenn Withers said that the body had alerted governments to problems relating to student safety, poor-quality colleges, lack of concessions on public transport and immigration matters.
He further pointed out that the governments did not treat the problems as a priority, but acted with urgency only when violent attacks on Indian students attracted intense media attention around the world.
"We were disappointed that earlier warnings took the unfortunate development of street assaults to lead to the reforms that should have been in place already. We saw this two years ago as an issue, tried to transmit it to government and were meeting resistance," The Age quoted Withers, as saying.
Withers said that Universities Australia had expressed a desire to work with the different government authorities to tackle problems, but was not taken seriously.
"We were told basically, 'This is not a matter for you, you are a concern of the Commonwealth and have no place at our table'," he said.
"We were warning: 'Look it's a reputational issue, it's a brand Australia issue, please let us work with you'. The states weren't interested in listening. I think they thought they could just ride this industry to their benefit without worrying about their role in any serious way," he added.
Between last July and October when there was intense media reporting of college closures and attacks on Indian students, applications for student visas dropped to 23 per cent below the figure for the same period a year earlier.
Applications from India fell 46 per cent and those from Nepal, Australia's fastest-growing market, plummeted by a staggering 85 per cent. (ANI)