Despite international students being one of South Australia’s biggest exports, Managing Director of Quality Training & Hospitality College Richard Finlayson believes that when it comes to the VET sector, “South Australia is closed for business.”
Mr Finlayson said that Streamlined Visa Processing (SVP) must change to ensure SA is attracting quality international students.
The benefit of SVP is that it is a lot easier to get a student visa when an education provider has SVP accreditation. This means that programs offered by SVP providers are going to be in greater demand than those without SVP approval.
“Many specialist providers in South Australia (ourselves included) have a fairly small number of overseas students. As a result, we aren’t eligible to apply for SVP,” Mr Finlayson said.
To be eligible for SVP, education providers must be associated with at least 100 active student visa holders.
Ironically, Quality Training & Hospitality College are ineligible for SVP accreditation that would make it easier for international students to be granted a student visa to study in Adelaide, because they don’t have enough overseas students to begin with.
“I believe the policy unwittingly disadvantages the smaller states, being Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory, as providers in these states are generally smaller, due to the smaller number of overseas students visiting these states and as such they don’t meet the threshold of 100 active enrolments.
“The bigger states get bigger and the smaller states get smaller,” he said.
Mr Finlayson said overseas students are essential to the VET sector in SA, filling vacancies in areas of chronic skill shortages.
But according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, declines in student visa applications were most prominent in the VET sector, declining by more than a third (37%) between 2008–09 and 2010–11.
Quality Training & Hospitality College have just over 60 international students enrolled.
“Without them, the industries skill shortage would be even worse,” Mr Finlayson said.
The Board Member for Australian Council for Private Education and Training wants different criteria for SVP’s, based on quality not size.
“This would be very easy to implement and would give us a big boost,” he said.