Oz visa system behind slump in Indian and international student numbers: Experts

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Melbourne, Nov 13(ANI): Australia is facing years of decline before universities recover from a significant slump in international student numbers, experts have said.

The experts believe that the current visa system takes too long and sets the bar too high, allowing competitors in the United States, Britain and Canada to jump in with a more flexible system.

The reaction comes after it was revealed that international student commencements to September 2010 are down 9.3 per cent on last year, a stark turnaround in a sector that enjoyed record growth over the past decade.

Enrolments from India are down by over 16 per cent on 2009, while Victoria University said that it suffered a 25 per cent drop in Indian student enrolments.

Simon Marginson, a Professor of Higher Education in the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, said that the number of international students would continue to fall unless the federal government addressed problems with the way visas are processed and awarded.

"Every delay is going to hurt the market. We could be looking at three or four years before we start to recover," the Age quoted Marginson, as saying.

La Trobe University deputy vice-chancellor John Rosenberg said that the market is alive, but "what happened is Australia has lost market share and we need to focus on regaining it"

He further said that the agents who recruit international students think that Australia is no longer interested in international education.

"That's the message [agents] are getting when they see long visa times and all sorts of changes to visa processing - they begin to think that perhaps this is a country that is no longer interested," Rosenberg said.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Smart, Swinburne University pro-vice chancellor, said that visa processing needed to change to "keep pace with the competitive arrangements in place in Canada and the USA in particular". (ANI)

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