With the 2017 academic year commencing at Australian universities this month, a record number of Nepalis are heading there for higher studies, making Nepal Australia’s eighth largest source of international students.
Lured by relatively lower fees, easier process for the student visa and more attainable job prospects, there have been 20,463 Nepali enrolments in Australian educational institutions as of September 2016, twice as many as last year. However, many students interviewed said privately they intended to stay on and work in Australia.
“I’d like to think educational reputation is the reason people come to Australia and not for the sole purpose of Permanent Residency,” Australian ambassador Glenn White told Nepali Times. He admitted he is often asked why Australia attracts so many Nepali students and said he hopes more students will return and contribute to Nepal’s economy.
Manata Upadhyaya of the Nepal International Education Consultancy (NIEC) says it is much harder to stay illegally in Australia than it is in the United States. But she believes more than 70 percent of Nepali students who go to Australia to study will settle down there.
Post-graduate student Shelina Amatya, 24, says she will apply for Permanent Residency when her visa expires in 2018 as she tries to get her foot in Australia’s corporate world. Amatya believes the working conditions are the main reason students are breaching their visa agreements.
“The limit of 20 hours work a week for students hardly covers rent and food when you have the added burden of tuition fees,” she said.
With a history of Nepali students breaching visa conditions, Australia stresses the importance of sticking to the set working hours. “20 hours might not be enough but students come here to study, not to work,” said Ambassador White. “Australia needs to provide jobs for its own people. There is no point in advertising jobs that aren’t available.”
He added that recent changes to the Skills Occupation List (SOL), which is part of Australia’s immigration points system, have made it harder and costlier for students to meet the requirements of the SOL that they are applying to.
Students like Amatya, however, admitted that it struggles: “We are paying thousands of dollars for a degree, and on top of that, to get Permanent Residency we have to do additional courses which will cost another $10, 000.”