Student visa backlog and educational qualification recognition with Australia high on agenda: Dharmendra Pradhan

Indian international students studying in Australia contributed more than $6.4 billion to the economy in 2019, pre-COVID.

Australian and Indian ministers of education held a bilateral meeting in Sydney to collaborate on education and skills development initiatives between the two nations.

India’s Minister of Education and Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan met with his Australian counterpart Jason Clare MP as part of the Australian India Education Council (AIEC) at Western Sydney University’s Parramatta City Campus.

Dharmendra Pradhan and Jason Clare (Twitter – Dharmendra Pradhan)

With AIEC 2022, India and Australia aim to collaborate in areas such as Ayurveda, Yoga & Agriculture, skill development, curriculum development and Digital University. 

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The education ministers launched two landmark initiatives – Australian Researcher Cooperation Hub-India (ARCH-India) and the Australia India Research Students Fellowship (AIRS Fellowship) program – that will boost bilateral research collaboration, and showcase research excellence of India and Australia.

During his discussion, Minister Pradhan also raised the issue of the impact of visa backlog on Indian students who are hoping to come to Australia for further study. He told the media that the issue has been raised and his office has been assured by the Australian Government that the whole process will be sped up.

(Twitter – Dharmendra Pradhan).

Minister Pradhan added:

“Australian Government is happy – I believe I trust my friend. He assured me when our Prime Minister – both our Prime Minister discuss also this issue, and he personally assured me he will look into the backlog issue. Yes, backlog issue is a concern for India because a lot of student have already budgeted their fees and entrance charges and are waiting for coming to Australia for their career, so I’m confident my friend will look into that answer.”

Minister Clare added that the Australian Government is keen to address the issue of backlog of student visas. He observed:

“It’s a serious issue. Indian students have paid up. They’re keen to come here. We want them here in Australia being part of our higher education system.”

He further updated that the Department of Home Affairs has added an extra 140 staff to help speed up the visa processing task.

“We’re seeing double the number of Indian students having their visas processed and approved in July as happened in June, but there’s still a backlog. There’s still more work that we have to do, and I’m working closely with Clare O’Neil, the Minister for Home Affairs on that task.”

India is Australia’s second-largest source market for international student enrolments, accounting for 15.2% of international students in 2019, pre- COVID, and 16.3% in 2022. Indian international students studying in Australia contributed more than $6.4 billion to the economy in 2019, pre-COVID.

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Dharmendra Pradhan, Jason Clare and Lisa Singh (Twitter – Dharmendra Pradhan).

Both ministers also discussed ways to recognize Indian education qualifications. Minister Clare said that he hopes this issue would be discussed at the Jobs and Skills Summit that will be held next week.

Minister Clare added:

“We want people with qualifications to be able to use them in Australia. We have a skills shortage at the moment. Australian businesses are screaming out for skilled workers. Brendan O’Connor, my colleague, the Minister for Skills, is looking at issues like this.”

Further, he was of the opinion that mutual recognition of educational qualifications “will help to underpin the growth in students studying here in Australia as well as Australian students being able to study in India.”

Currently, more than a quarter of permanent skilled migrants in Australia work in jobs that are beneath their skill level. Both ministers were hopeful that some progress on this front will be made by the end of this year.