Australian opportunities dry up for Chinese students

13:12, May 31, 2010      

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A recent change in Australia's immigration policy is having an impact on Chinese students.

The new Skilled Occupation List (SOL) announced by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship on May 17 suggests the country is narrowing its doors to immigration.

While the current SOL has 400 occupations, the new list, which will come into effect on July 1, cuts the number to 181.

This will affect Chinese students planning to go to Australia and those now studying there.

According to Australia Embassy statistics, between July 2008 and June 2009, 54,015 student visas were issued to Chinese nationals.

The number increased by 80 percent compared to the same period from 2005 to 2006, during which 29,970 student visas were issued.

One thing that makes Australia a popular destination for Chinese students is that based on current law, two years of study experience in courses related to the country's in-need occupations opens the doors for them to immigrate.

Zhao Xiaoyan, a senior consultant at the Beijing Office of International Development Program (IDP), said most students consider the possibility of immigration as a benefit of their studies in Australia. Owned by 38 Australian universities, IDP was founded by the Australian Government in 1969 to strengthen teaching and research in Asian countries.

Zhao says almost every student who goes to IDP asks about emigrating to Australia, though it is not the only purpose of their education.

"Most students prefer to have several years' working experience in the country before they return to China," Zhao says. Most jobs in Australia require permanent residency.

"The change of immigration policy will alter the expectations of Chinese students planning to study in Australia, and the number of students applying for education in the country is likely to decrease," says Allen Jiang, IDP's regional director in North Asia. "Those hoping to immigrate by studying in Australia are likely to change their plans."

"About one third of my classmates changed their two-year master's degree course to 1.5 years," says Sally Ma, a Chinese student majoring in accounting at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Two years of study with a degree in accounting, which was among the migrant occupations in demand, enables students to apply for permanent residency after graduation.

"We look at immigration as an extra benefit of our studies," Sally says. "But we now find it is quite risky because of the policy change."

She has spent over 300,000 yuan ($43,950) over the past year-and-a-half studying in the country.

While accountants remain on the new SOL, Sally is heading back to China after she finishes her degree this July, as she "can not risk more future policy changes".

For Chinese students planning to study in Australia, the change will have a considerable impact.

Li Tao, senior marketing manager of IDP Beijing Office, says the number of inquiries they received this year dropped by about 10 percent compared with the same period last year. "Most students preferred to wait and see when the policy change was first revealed this February," Li says. "Australia obviously has become less attractive without the extra benefit of immigration."

A college graduate in Beijing, surnamed Zhang, received the offer of a cookery course from TAFE (Technical and Further Education) in New South Wales in January this year. Most TAFE courses, such as cookery and hairdressing, are vocationally oriented and require students to undertake practical placements in the workplace

Zhang recently gave up on his plan of studying in Australia, because cookery has been removed from the new SOL and there is little likelihood of being able to emigrate.

"It is important to remember that the main motivation for overseas education is to graduate with the prospect of a good job and career," Allen Jiang says.

Source: China Daily(By Zhang Yue)


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