Excellent English skills made mandatory for foreign students seeking residency in Oz

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Canberra, Nov 12 (ANI): Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has reportedly imposed serious standards of English on the country's multi-billion-dollar international student business by changing its skilled migration test to favour potential migrants with higher skills, experience and better command over the English language.

It is the latest in a series of reforms making it harder for education providers to use the prospect of permanent residency to recruit fee-paying foreign students into low-quality courses.

The Australian quoted Monash University researcher Bob Birrell as saying that it would be difficult now for foreign graduates of Australian institutions to qualify as skilled migrants unless they reached at least professional level English, represented by a score of seven in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Dr Bowen also said that the new points test, to start next July, should attract highly skilled "symbolic analysts" to solve complex problems facing the nation.

The new points test rewards superior English for the first time, relaxes age limits to attract skilled migrants with experience and advanced qualifications, and gives the same points to overseas university degrees as it does to local qualifications, the paper said.

The test will work in step with July's new skilled occupation list, which removed low skill jobs such as hairdressing in favour of engineers and health professionals.

Dr Birrell said that education authorities and providers had resisted any requirement that graduates score a professional standard of seven in IELTS, despite research showing that in 2006-07 about a third of the overseas students who had graduated in Australia and won residency as skilled migrants lacked the English proficiency to work as professionals.

"It will hit hard with those who struggle to get seven and that includes East Asians."

China is Australia's biggest education market and well-known universities are especially reliant on overseas student income from commerce and business faculties. (ANI)

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