Tuesday 31 May 2005

International Students

Ms GIDDINGS - I have a couple of briefs on this particular aspect for you. In terms of the international student numbers, our marketing efforts have continued to yield an increasing number of students at Tasmanian government schools and TAFE Tasmania. However, following substantial increases from 1999, enrolments levelled out in 2003. TAFE enrolments continued to increase in 2004. However, school enrolments did decrease.
The year to date figures for schools show a reversal of that downward trend experienced in 2004. In 2003, there were 270 students enrolled in schools; in 2004, that dropped to 228; but in the year to date we already have 223, so we are on the way back up again. In terms of TAFE numbers, full-time equivalents here, there were 172 in 2003 and 190 in 2004. So there was an increase there, but there are no further figures available on that one. In terms of TAFE enrolments, in 2003 there were 267, that increased to 296 in 2004 and the year to date figure is 232.
We have had a number of promotional activities that have been undertaken. We seem to constantly have staff travelling particularly to the South-East Asian region, working with migration agents and attending various promotional activities in these countries to help keep Tasmania on the map in relation to attracting students here to the State. We tend to concentrate on the Asian countries which include Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, the People's Republic of China and Malaysia. Taiwan, Vietnam and Germany are currently being developed as new markets, while watching briefs are being maintained on emerging source countries such as Brazil, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. In terms of the budget aspect, I will ask Mr McIlfatrick to respond.

Mr McILFATRICK - Last year we spent about $189 000 on promotion, and I think the hit rate for that is quite good because the economic benefit of each student is probably $3 000 or $4 000. So if you multiply that out, we have had a good benefit. We have had an internal look at our budget allocations for next year and we will double the expenditure on the international education, in partnership with TAFE and the Education department, to try to get our numbers up further because they do have a positive impact on the State economy and also on the cultural diversity of the children at school. I think it is a very worthwhile program.

Mr HALL - Thanks for that.

Mr FINCH - Minister, are you aware that those students that we are seeking to draw here have difficulty with the Immigration department in getting here? Are you able to take steps to change that around and make it easier for them to come here?

Ms GIDDINGS - I will get Alan to talk to this but I am very much aware of it, and my colleague the Minister for Education tends to have to deal with this issue a lot more. She raises it at her ministerial council meetings with the other Education ministers. She has been pursuing this with the Federal Government for some years now. Alan may well have further comment.

Mr CAMPBELL - There have been lots of issues on visas for international students over the years, and certainly I think the Immigration department has taken on board some of those problems. For instance, in China at one stage the processing time was about five to six months, but certainly that has come down at this stage. They have also put in place more modern application systems. A lot of the schools application in China, India, Vietnam and so on are now electronically based, and all of the documents are transferred electronically from China here into Adelaide. There is an audit process involved in that. But that certainly has speeded up the visa processing time. To give you an example, the school sector in China at this stage is generally running at about 30 days maximum time. So that is a vast improvement on what has happened in the past.
Through our activities with the individual institutions here, we go to various meetings at the Commonwealth level with the Immigration department; at the schools, vocational and university level we go to the various peak bodies; and everybody is singing the same message to the Immigration department. They have responded to it. We hope that this improvement continues into the future.

Mr FINCH - So the Immigration department understands the economic opportunities that are available to us, but it is only a mechanical process that they are speeding up?


Mr FINCH - With any VET students who have come here for TAFE, there has never been an issue with immigration, coming to us or abusing their stay here has there?

Mr CAMPBELL - I think generally speaking for all sectors in Tasmania, we have quite a good track record of complying.

Mr FINCH - The university students as well?

Mr CAMPBELL - Yes, the university students as well. The Immigration department looks at these things and allocate a risk to the countries according to some sort of rating. They have this four-class categorisation of country risk, and the criteria for getting a visa is determined according to those risk classifications. China is still classified as four, which is the worst risk rating, but certainly things are improving.

Tuesday 31 May 2005 –

Estimates Committee B (Giddings) Department of Economic Development

Norm McIlfatrick , Secretary
Rhys Edwards , Deputy Secretary, Industry Development
Greg Johannes , Deputy Secretary, Business and Community Development Division
Jonathan Wood , Executive Director, Governance and Strategy Division
Craig Watson , Executive Director, Corporate Support Division
Alan Campbell , General Manager (Export and Market Development), Industry Development Division
Ben Galbraith , General Manager (Antarctic Tasmania), Industry Development Division
John Nicoll , Director (Screen Tasmania), Industry Development Division
Matt McGee , General Manager (Natural Gas), Resource and Infrastructure, Industry Development Division
Wendy Spencer , Director, Innovation, Science and Technology, Business and Community Development Division