AN immigration crackdown will make it harder to recruit students from India, the fast-growing big market in Australia's $12.5 billion education export industry.
University of NSW's pro vice-chancellor (international) Jennie Lang told the HES all universities were likely to have urged students to get their visa applications lodged and processed before the September1 change in immigration risk levels, which affects a host of overseas markets.
"We will also be encouraging (Department of Immigration and Citizenship) staff in offshore posts to ensure that university sector applicants are given priority," Ms Lang said.
A spokesperson from the department said "genuine applicants had nothing to fear from the changes".
According to the latest official data, there were 65,000 Indian students in Australia in the year to June, mostly in vocational education. Although they make up a smaller market than the Chinese, the Indian growth rate is much higher: student numbers from India grew by 55 per cent, compared with 19per cent from China.
The China market, however, benefits in the latest revision of immigration risk, which is based on factors such as rates of document fraud, visa overstay and asylum claims, as well as applications for non-skilled residency for a spouse, for example.
Hong Kong-based international education consultant Alan Olsen told the HES that the change affecting the China market was particularly significant. He said demand for places in English language colleges was likely to increase sharply.
"I think we would all agree that, ahead of events like World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, the learning of English by hospitality staff in China is one of the world's great needs," he said.
Another beneficiary of the immigration change is Saudi Arabia, which has been reclassified as representing the lowest risk level.
Qatar, Oman and Brazil also shifted to the lowest of the five possible levels of immigration risk category; 23 countries now have that rating. Their students are eligible to make online applications offshore.
In all, 43 countries have been judged less risky.
India was not alone in moving up the risk scale. Visa applicants from Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Jordan, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Romania and Zimbabwe will have to do more to show they are genuine students.
They will have to give extra evidence of their capacity to support themselves financially, especially with savings histories.
The status of these nine countries had been changed "to combat increased levels of immigration risk", the department spokesperson said.
The risk levels are set across various sectors, including English language courses, vocational education and higher degrees.
The higher risk assessment affects all sectors of the Indian education market, which moved up by one level.
Although the risk level for would-be students from Iran had not been raised, the Iranian Government had been warned this could happen if negative trends continued.
In the latest year-to-date figures from Australian Education International, there were more than 392,000 overseas students in Australia, representing almost a 20 per cent increase inenrolments.
India, China and Nepal continued to be strong growth markets, but those such as Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan continued to decline.
Vocational education was the fastest-growing sector, up 46.5per cent overall, while university enrolments increased by 2.7 per cent and commencements by 10.1 per cent.
English language courses were up by about 28 per cent.