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'Oz college closures means fewer Indian students'

March 10, 2010 17:00 IST

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith today said the closure of some dubious private colleges in the country would lead to decline in number of Indian students coming here for further studies.

His comments follow the release of an independent report into the USD 16-billion overseas education sector for
international students by former Liberal MP Bruce Baird, which found the industry has been distorted by colleges that were set up to take advantage of students seeking permanent residency.

Smith said he expected the collapse of some colleges to translate into a drop in enrollments.

"I think we will see a drop in the number of Indian students coming to Australia, I think for three reasons: the
safety issues, the general adverse consequences of the global financial crisis and integrity or quality issues," he said.

However, Smith said he hoped improvements to the nation's overseas education system will minimise the drop in the number of Indian students coming to the country.

"I think one of those adjustments will be a drop in the numbers, but I don't think that will be a permanent thing," he said, adding "I expect the rigour which is instilled will be in the long term a much better quality outcome."

Baird yesterday handed down his report, which called for changes to weed out shonky operators and provide greater
protection for students.

"We have permanent residency factories," he said. "If you ask any of the good providers, they'll quickly name those who they believe are dodgy operators and are rotting the system."

"It is those groups we should be directing our attention to. They probably represent 20 per cent of the vocational
sector," he added.

Over 100 incidents of attacks on Indians, including racial, have come to light since May last year in Australia. 21-year-old student Nitin Garg, who was stabbed to death here, was the first victim of such assaults this year.

Baird said migration policy, which made it easier for people to achieve permanent residency if they studied courses
in areas of skill shortages, such as cooking or hairdressing, had distorted the education sector.

He backed changes recently announced by Immigration Minister Chris Evans that seek to break the link between
education and migration.

Under the new guidelines, colleges would face tougher registration standards, including a sharper focus on their
financial resources and business models.

Those colleges considered high risk would be monitored more closely and bear a greater portion of the cost of
industry assurance schemes.

Baird in his report stressed on the need of a new streamlined system to place students left stranded by college
collapses, and in some cases to prevent college closures.

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard said the government will quickly act on some of theĀ  recommendations.

"It is our predisposition as a government to move to amend legislation as soon as possible, particularly to lift
the bar for entry into being an education provider for international students," she said.

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