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Universities urged to end secrecy over names of full-fee students

The Universities Admissions Centre will ask universities to reverse a policy of keeping secret the names of those who are offered full-fee-paying places, now that six NSW universities offer the degrees that cost up to $150,000.

The admissions centre's managing director, Andrew Stanton, said the names of students offered full-fee places had never been published because it was "considered a bit of a privacy issue" in 1999, when the protocols on handling full-fee applications had first been set. But that was in the days when only the University of Sydney and the University of NSW accepted full-fee students, who gain entry to courses on marginally lower marks than Commonwealth-subsidised students but pay much higher course costs.

This year six universities - the University of Sydney, the University of NSW, the University of Newcastle, the Australian Catholic University, Charles Sturt University and Southern Cross University - offer full-fee places, encouraged by Federal Government changes.

Under the Government's higher education changes, which take effect this year, institutions may enrol 35 per cent of their Australian students as full-fee payers in most courses, and the students have access to a new loans scheme to help finance the expensive degrees.

Mr Stanton said the initial sensitivity about publishing the names of offer recipients was to do with "the public perception that people were getting in because they could pay for it".

"That view has softened," he said. "People are realising it is a valid alternative."

Full-fee applications were only one of many entry schemes giving admission to students with entrance scores below the standard cut-off, Mr Stanton said, and it was unfair to fix upon the full fee-paying route "in isolation and misinterpret it".

The universities have a "users' committee" at the admissions centre, where representatives of each higher education institution liaise with the centre's staff.

Publishing names with full-fee-paying offers was "something that we will take up" with the universities, Mr Stanton said.

The proposal has high-level support at the University of Newcastle, which this year entered the full-fee market, making 567 offers for places in 59 courses.

The deputy vice-chancellor, Brian English, said such enrolments were now "a regular part of the system, and the clarity of the offers [process] would be enhanced ... if the names of everybody were published. It would be easier for the students and easier for everyone else."

There was "no stigma in being offered a fee-paying place", and the logical system was to publish two offers for applicants who qualified for entry under both schemes, Professor English said.

"Students might have put HECS [the subsidised Higher Education Contribution Scheme] law at Sydney first [on their preference list], and law fee-paying at Sydney second, then a mixture of other HECS and fee-paying courses, so they might get one offer for fee-paying law and another for HECS arts," Professor English said.

The state president of the National Union of Students, Sarah-Jane Collins, said "the stigma [associated with being a full-fee student] is gone to some extent", but Australian students should not be paying such large amounts for an education.

University main-round offers to students wanting to pay their way into university rose almost 80 per cent this year, from 1647 offers to 2943. Some students applied for both a HECS and a fee place.

Reported in Sydney Morning Herald
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CQU student dies in waterfall plunge

A YOUNG man drowned after he and a friend were sucked under a waterfall on the Gold Coast hinterland.

Salman Amin, 25, was swimming at Natural Bridge when he became trapped under the weight of the famous waterfall.

He was one of 24 Brisbane-based Bangladeshi university students who had been enjoying a day trip to the hinterland. Another student was pulled from the water after trying to rescue Mr Amin, described later by friends as a poor swimmer who suffered from asthma.

Rescue divers searched the turbulent water hole into the night and found find his body about 10.40pm.

"It was located under a rock ledge near the falls - it was in about three metres of water," a police spokesman said. "The body was retrieved and formally identified and the family has been advised."

It is the third swimming hole tragedy in Australia in recent days.

On Christmas Day, four members of a Pakistani family drowned at MacKenzie Falls in Victoria, and on the same day a 38-year old Charleville man died after diving into a weir near Cunnamulla.

Onlookers said about six people had been swimming near the waterfall, which cascades through a picturesque natural arch formation in the lush Numinbah Valley.

"Salman decided to go under the waterfall to see the pressure, but he slipped and went under," fellow student Mudassir Chowdhruy said.

"Other friends told him not to go very close to the waterfall but he did. He was not a very good swimmer and he was asthmatic."

Others saw him resurface before once again being forced underwater by the weight of the falls.

Another friend, known only as Imran, attempted to reach Mr Amin but also found himself in trouble.

A rescuer dragged Imran from the icy water. Paramedics treated him on the rocky bank of the falls, covering him with a reflective heat blanket to prevent hypothermia.

He was later carried out of the gorge on a stretcher.

Dozens of police, ambulance, fire and State Emergency Service workers rushed to the scenic tourist destination, but it took nearly an hour and a half for divers to properly prepare to enter the water and begin their search.

Mr Amin's friends were outraged at the delay and said more should be done to warn others of the danger of the water hole. Noman Musa, 22, said friends had to trek for 10 minutes to find a mobile phone signal and call for help.

"I'm really upset about it. There's no lifesaver up here. There should be a lifesaver, this place is very risky," Mr Musa said. "There has to be signs. There's no signage here."

Onlookers Jessica and Paul McKenna, of Brisbane, said Mr Amin "completely disappeared" under the falls.

Mr Amin was a second-year marketing student at Central Queensland University's Brisbane campus.

Meanwhile, four bushwalkers who spent Monday night lost in bushland at Mt Barney National Park emerged safe and well yesterday morning before search parties were deployed.

Reported in The Courier Mail
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Union and UTAS to discuss pay dispute

More talks will be held today in a bid to end the pay dispute involving English language teachers at the University of Tasmania.

The academics walked off the job for 24 hours at the end of last year and have threatened further action unless a satisfactory offer is made.

They met earlier this week to consider a revised pay offer.

Karin Dowling from the National Tertiary Education Union says further talks with the university this morning will attempt to resolve the sticking points.

"Failing that, our members intend to meet next week to further consider their position in the bargaining," she said.

"But really we'd just like to focus on the positive progress that we think has been made in the negotiations and to encourage the university to continue to talk through some of the last remaining issues."

Reported in ABC Regional
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New offer may end teachers' strike at UTAS English Language Centre

TEACHERS from the University of Tasmania's English Language Centre have postponed a strike planned for tomorrow as part of a continuing salary dispute.

The English Language Centre teaches English to international students who either have an interest in bettering their English skills or need lessons to help them with their studies.

ELC teachers went on strike for 24 hours on December 15 to consider a revised offer, which was rejected.

The university made a revised offer of a 20.25 per cent increase in four instalments from 2004-2007 but NTEU members rejected the offer last Wednesday.

They voted to continue their industrial action but the university said yesterday it would make a new offer.

ELC teachers are seeking parity with other university staff in leave flexibility, job security, workload regulation and improved professional development opportunities.

The centre's academic year began on January 4 and a strike would have an impact on the teaching of modules, enrolments, organising classes and students' graduation.

NTEU industrial officer Karin Dowling said it would cost the university at least $15,000 a day to refund ELC students for a lost day.

Reported in The Mercury
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Students tell top universities to lift standard of teaching

Some of the most prestigious universities have the highest dissatisfaction levels with the quality of their teaching, yet retain low dropout rates, says a comprehensive ranking of student experiences released by the Federal Department of Education.

Undergraduate happiness - measured in Student Outcome Indicators of Australian higher education institutions, 2002 and 2003 - will become funding criteria for universities next year, when the Commonwealth will open a competitive learning and teaching performance fund.

Universities will quote measures of student satisfaction to compete for shares of the fund worth $54.6million next year, growing to $113.8million in 2008.

The fund could partially offset the sandstone institutions' strength in winning competitive research funding.

The report shows that of the 37 public universities, student satisfaction with teaching was lowest at two members of the elite Group of Eight research-intensive universities - the University of Adelaide, followed by the University of NSW.

The University of NSW's move to second-worst was a step up from the previous report, released in 2001, which showed UNSW at rock bottom.

In contrast, the highest level of satisfaction with teaching was recorded at the University of New England, followed by Murdoch in Western Australia. Both scored highly in the 2001 report.

Nevertheless, UNSW enjoyed the second-lowest dropout rate of first year students, and the third-lowest dropout rate for continuing students. The University of Wollongong recorded the lowest first year dropout rate.

The director of policy and analysis at the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee, Conor King, said that for the last decade universities had been trying to improve students' experiences in the lecture theatres, and the Commonwealth's performance fund would "focus attention even more on teaching quality" and reward institutions that made it a priority.

However, it was important that funding depended on more than just happy responses from student surveys and low dropout rates, "unless you want to produce a homogenous sector where you [the universities] only choose the students who will stay with you," Mr King said.

A higher education policy analyst with Griffith University, Gavin Moodie, said that high levels of student satisfaction and low dropout or failure rates were not infallible indicators that all was well. They could also imply soft marking and raised the question: "Do institutions with lower cut-off scores [for entry] mark easier than other institutions - who would bloody know?"

Relying on student satisfaction levels might also fail to take into account the inevitably lower degree of individual attention an undergraduate receives in the crowded lecture halls of popular courses, such as first year psychology, compared to niche courses "like Swedish", Mr Moodie said.

Nevertheless, the pro-Vice-Chancellor (education) at UNSW, Adrian Lee, said that "we clearly need to improve our teaching".

The research-intensive nature of UNSW meant that in past years, "staff had the feeling that effort in research was what counted," Professor Lee said.

However, since 2000, UNSW had set up teacher-training programs and mentorships, he said. The university has also launched a comprehensive set of teaching guidelines that push staff to make their classes challenging, inclusive and relevant.

Professor Lee said that UNSW had won national and state teaching awards since the renewed emphasis on how best to deliver courses.

Reported in Sydney Morning Herald
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AGSM slumps in rankings

THE Australian Graduate School of Management has plummeted more than 30 places in the Financial Times ranking of the world's top 100 business schools' MBA programs.

AGSM, a joint venture between the University of Sydney and the University of NSW, fell from 53rd place last year to 84th in the latest table, released on Monday. The school had improved from 69th to 53rd between 2003 and 2004.

Its only Australian counterpart on the table, the Melbourne Business School, had a better year. Its ranking jumped from 72nd to 63rd. On a three-year average ranking (2003-05), the University of Melbourne's MBS also came out on top, at 66th against AGSM's 69th.

Harvard, Wharton, Columbia and Stanford in the US filled the top four places. The London Business School was fifth.

AGSM award programs director Sharyn Roberts said the school was pleased that for the sixth year in a row it had made the Financial Times top 100. The drop in places was not a concern.

"Business school rankings do fluctuate from year to year and what's really important is the long-term performance, that's where we have our focus," Ms Roberts said.

"In terms of how it might be used more broadly, we do understand that students look at it but the crucial thing is that we remain focused on our mission to attract the best-quality students, the best-quality faculty and produce outstanding graduates."

MBS dean and director John Seybolt said in a statement: "This ranking is especially gratifying because it is based on alumni perceptions of the value of the program."

MBS was listed in the top 10 schools for economics.

According to the Financial Times, MBS students can expect a salary increase of 106 per cent on graduation compared with their pay before enrolment. AGSM students can budget for a 78 per cent rise.

Average salaries three years after graduating are $141,430 for MBS students and $126,631 for AGSM alumni.

Calculating course costs, the opportunity cost of not working during the course and salaries three years after graduation, MBS is ranked 40th best in terms of value for money. The AGSM is 64th.

But job prospects are better for AGSM graduates, 83 per cent of whom were in work three months after leaving, against 66 per cent of MBS graduates.

Both schools are roughly equal on the proportion of female students (25 per cent each) and female faculty members (AGSM 22 per cent, MBS 23 per cent).

Ms Roberts said the AGSM was pleased with enrolments for 2005 after reports last year suggested the school had suffered a dramatic drop-off in numbers.

"We have 1600 in our MBA executive programs for session one and 150 students in the full-time program," she said.

Numbers are "on par" with last year's enrolment, Ms Roberts said.

The University of Queensland's Brisbane School of Management, 82nd in last year's survey, dropped out of the top 100 this year.

MBAs are offered at 36 of Australia's 38 universities.

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Nelson wants a say in course cuts

FEDERAL Education Minister Brendan Nelson has signalled he wants greater control over what universities teach, warning they must negotiate with the Government before closing courses.

He has also fired a salvo at the peak Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, questioning "the intellectual integrity" of public statements it has made.

Dr Nelson raised the issue of course closures in specialist areas with low enrolments - particularly in allied health and languages - following a couple of controversial closures last year.

Last month he wrote to all vice-chancellors citing "growing community concern" about these.

"I will be including an additional condition of grant in funding agreements that will specify that closures of specialist courses must be negotiated and agreed with the commonwealth," he said.

One higher education source described the move as the most intrusive from a federal minister since Labor education minister John Dawkins.

"Since the Higher Education Support Act came in, the Government is controlling the enrolment mix of students subject by subject," the source said.

"Now it's controlling what courses you open and what courses you close."

But AVCC vice-president and vice-chancellor of Wollongong University Gerard Sutton said he agreed with Dr Nelson's intention - if he gave extra funding to sustain those courses.

"The issue as to whether or not a university can continue a course depends on the appropriate number of students and the funding level associated with it," Professor Sutton said.

"So if as part of the negotiations ... he's suggesting that for those courses special funding would be made available to those universities to keep those courses going, that is fine.

"If he's saying that within the current resources he would insist on those courses being run then that would be unreasonable." But vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland John Hay said while he had not seen the detail, it could mean "extremely bureaucratic intervention".

"With about 6000 courses UQ is regularly introducing new courses and closing others," Professor Hay said.

Closing a course was not a decision that was made lightly. Further, a raft of factors such as teaching capacity, demand, research opportunities, and community need were all taken into account when considering such a move, he said.

In a separate letter to AVCC president and vice-chancellor of Macquarie University Di Yerbury, Dr Nelson has taken the unusual step of admonishing the peak lobby.

At issue were comments made by the committee's chief executive John Mullarvey on ABC Radio just before Christmas.

Mr Mullarvey was being interviewed about the federal Government's plans to transfer the remaining state control of universities to the commonwealth after the release of a paper flagging options for doing this.

Dr Nelson's letter, obtained by the HES, said: "I would ask you to carefully read the transcript [of the interview, which he enclosed] and reassure me of the intellectual integrity of a number of statements that are made."

Among the statements that irritated Dr Nelson was Mr Mullarvey's assertion that the only way to make it easier for students to get into university was to have more Government-funded places: "That's not something that the Government has put on the table."

"I may be missing something," Dr Nelson's letter said, "but have we not just announced the funding of 36,000 HECS [places] over the next four years while crossing the historical threshold of providing an income contingent loan for full-fee paying Australians in the eligible public and private universities?"

Reported in The Australian
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Thousands of Temporary Entrants Chose to Call Australia Home

Thousands more people who come to Australia temporarily for skilled employment or study are choosing to stay for good, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, said today.

New figures, released today by Senator Vanstone, show more than 36,000 permanent visas were granted in 2003-04 to people already in Australia on temporary visas.

‘This is more than double the number of eight years ago and represents a profound shift in the way people migrate to Australia,’ Senator Vanstone said.

‘Almost a third of places in the 2003-04 Migration Program went to people already in the country.

Senator Vanstone said students and skilled workers are driving the change.

‘In the case of students, in 2001 the Government changed the rules to allow overseas students in Australia to be able to apply to stay permanently as skilled migrants at the end of their studies,’ Senator Vanstone said.

‘In the case of skilled migrants, last financial year over 13,000 permanent skilled migration visas were granted to students in Australia, a 50 per cent increase on 2002-03.’

There was a seven per cent rise in the number of permanent visas granted onshore under the Employer Nomination scheme to workers who entered on temporary programs in 2003-04.

‘The people being granted these visas are typically young and skilled, and now are more often educated in Australia. This is benefit to all Australians,’ Senator Vanstone said.

‘They are usually proficient in English and have established social networks and experience of our labour market and culture, increasing their chances of settling quickly and successfully.

‘Most are coming from the United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China and India.’

Source - DIMIA Media Release
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Editors quit University of Queensland Press over restructuring

THREE senior editors have walked away from the University of Queensland Press amid claims its editorial autonomy is under threat.

As UQP overhauls its operations, three of its five commissioning editors are among nine staff to take redundancy packages in the past two months.

General manager Greg Bain said the press was managing "perfectly well" with only eight remaining staff, as it had outsourced its production and was using freelancers. Once it had recruited more staff its workforce would be 12 or 13, with a stronger emphasis on internal editorial control, he said.

Editor-at-large and former publishing manager Craig Munro, senior editor (literary fiction and non-fiction) Rosanne Fitzgibbon and senior editor and manager of black Australian writing Sue Abbey left UQP this month.

Managing editor Madonna Duffy is tipped as the frontrunner for the new position of publisher, which was advertised recently in the trade newsletter Weekly Book News.

An interim publishing committee has been set up comprising several members of the UQP board, a move Ms Fitzgibbon said threatened independent decision-making about what was published.

She said the board had never before been involved in the creative process of deciding what should be published.

As reported in the HES last August, UQP, which comprises a publishing arm and bookshop, has been slashing costs to rein in a $3.5 million debt, which it says is costing the university $215,000 a year in interest.

Considered one of the most important publishers of Australian literature since World War II, UQP launched the careers of a raft of authors including Peter Carey, David Malouf and Kate Grenville when it published their first novels.

But like many scholarly publishers in Australia and overseas, it has fallen on hard times and has found it difficult to compete with the big commercial publishers.

The university said it wanted to retain the press but that there had to be changes, including moving out of some marginal areas of publishing and seeking new business.

"The university is not walking away from it," acting vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield told the HES. "It has supported it and continues to support it."

The restructure document says the press will continue to publish scholarly and general books. It has set a target to move from 40 titles this year to 60 in 2007, with the number of scholarly titles increasing from seven to 16 over that period. Children's titles would rise from 10 to 16 and nonfiction from nine to 13.

Asked about the impact of fewer commissioning editors on the press's capacity to spot new writers, Mr Bain said UQP was building closer relationships with literary agents. "That's really helping us to identify strong talent," he said.

But Ms Abbey, who has worked for UQP for 23 years, said she was concerned about the mentoring of emerging authors. "UQP has made and maintained its reputation for divining talent and for nurturing and fostering the careers of emerging writers," she said. "My major concern is that the mentoring aspect of UQP is now left with one individual or desk editors."

National Tertiary Education Union UQ president Andrew Bonnell said the restructure had "pretty much gutted" the press in terms of expertise and corporate memory. "I think it's going to be very hard for them to maintain the level of innovation in terms of getting quality new writers, [as] the press had done in the past, without active, experienced commissioning editors," he said.

"They can say they'll see what agents give us, but it's not the same as having strong commissioning editors."

Reported in The Australian
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Data from heaven for UNSW

STUDENTS at the University of NSW may benefit through research, commercialisation and employment from a possible tie-up between the university and an Australian satellite technology company.

The video technology, according to its Australian owners, will be able to spot and track from space a fire smaller than 4000sqm.

Executives from Astrovision Australia, seeking a university to act a repository for reams of data sent earthwards by the satellite, have been in talks with senior academics from the University of NSW.

Astrovision chief executive officer Shubber Ali said the university would be able to use the data in teaching.

UNSW school of biological, earth and environmental sciences geologist Geoffrey Taylor said there was an agreement in principle to explore a partnership between the university and Astrovision.

"From UNSW's perspective, our interest is not merely as a data repository but also in the research that can be done on a medium and long-term data archive," he said.

"The technology will provide a perspective that we've never had before, that is to look at earth processes at a variety of time scales."

Mr Ali said there was also a promise of jobs for graduates and that the company had designed a curriculum based on the data.

"We expect there will be opportunities for students on a graduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral level in research and, downstream, employment opportunities," he said.

"It should bring roughly 100 direct hi-tech jobs and about 500 indirect jobs in programming, systems analysis, data fusion and computer modelling."

Astrovision is in the process of raising the $200 million it needs to build and launch (in 2007) a satellite that will be fitted with seven sensors, some of which will be able to spot fires as they start.

One of the sensors would be able to transmit a fresh image every second, said Astrovision Australia managing director Michael Hewins, a former space lawyer.

The technology is based on NASA science used on deep space research missions.

Astrovision Australia, which opened for business in October 2003, sees the Defence Department, the Bureau of Meteorology, Australian Customs Service, bushfire authorities and other emergency services as customers.

The satellite, which will be in geostationary orbit, can picture an area stretching from Bangladesh to North Korea, Hawaii and the Antarctic.

It can zoom into an area 1000kmx1000km and can detect a bushfire smaller than 4000sqm.

Among its sensors are the streaming video camera, a thermal imager that can detect heat blooms, and a lightning tracker. Images from these can be overlaid.

"Whenever a bushfire starts, we can see it live, which means it can be monitored, which means the efficiency of the firefighting crews - to get there, see where the most serious hot-spots are and cut down on the damage - becomes much better than it has been," Mr Hewins said.

Professor Taylor said the satellite could be used to track storms or locust plagues and to see how soils behaved under different climate events.

Internet access to an archive would probably be free, but live video would be available only by paid subscription, Mr Hewins said.

Reported in The Australian
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Foreign Students Settle

One in three of Australia's new settlers is a young person who originally came to study or work.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said 36,700 temporary residents, mostly foreign students, were given permanent residency in the year to last June, compared with just 15,000 five years earlier.

More than 13,000 were beneficiaries of a little-noticed policy introduced in 2001 that allows foreign students permanent residency if they line up a skilled job within six months of completing their course.

New Immigration Department figures show the number seizing the opportunity jumped 52 per cent last year, as growing numbers of Asian students chose to stay and work in Australia.

Almost half had qualifications in information and communications technology, and about a quarter had accounting degrees, with engineers the next largest group. Two-thirds came from India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Korea.

"This is a benefit to all Australians," Senator Vanstone said. "The people granted these visas are typically young and skilled."

Demand from foreign students lifted the number of people settling permanently in Australia to almost 149,000 in 2003-04, up from 95,000 six years earlier.

The number settling here under government programs has jumped in six years from 79,000 to 129,000, while a further 20,000 arrived last year from New Zealand.

Reported in The Age
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Immigration raid nets 59 people

Thirty-nine people have been sent to Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre and another 20 ordered to leave Australia after being caught in raids by the Immigration Department.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said all were found to be in Australia illegally during compliance operations in Sydney in the past two days.

Fifty were "unlawful non-citizens" and nine were found to be in breach of their visa conditions, she said.

"The illegal workers were located across several industry types including construction, hospitality and manufacturing," Senator Vanstone said.

"A total of 35 people were located at their workplaces and warning notices will be issued to all employers."

The operations were conducted throughout Sydney, including Liverpool, Girraween, Marrickville, Botany, Camperdown, Hurstville, Fairfield, Penrith, Merrylands, the northern beaches and Circular Quay.

Of the group, there were 38 men and 21 women from China (12), Indonesia (8), Egypt (6), Fiji (5), Malaysia (5), Thailand (4), Pakistan (3), Lebanon (3), the Philippines (2), Hong Kong (2), Sri Lanka (2), Nigeria (1), United Kingdom (1), Japan (1), South Korea (1), Germany (1), Taiwan (1) and Bangladesh (1).

Reported in Sydney Morning Herald
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International students at University of Sydney need to improve their English

Extra English language classes will be offered to overseas students at the University of Sydney after a review found that they did not do as well as Australian students, or foreign students at the country's other main universities.

In an otherwise positive report from the Australian Universities Quality Agency, the inferior progression rates of the university's foreign students was identified as an area of concern. Students studying the humanities, the social sciences and science and technology were seen as most at risk.

The university's acting vice-chancellor, Professor John Hearn, said its own assessments found that overall overseas students did as well as local ones. But he conceded that in fields such as economics and business, progression rates differed.

"All international students have got an internationally recognised entry level requirement of English, but it is clear that some may need additional support," he said. "We will be now giving more options and support for English teaching for students who require it. They do get this already, but it is an area which we will now be strengthening."

At present students requiring English tuition can receive it from the university's Centre for English Teaching. But as a result of the quality agency's audit, they will now be asked directly whether they want it from university staff.

"We will now be far more active in looking at this, predicting which individuals may need support and recommending that they do it," Professor Hearn said. "We won't be doing this in any threatening way, but we will be getting more onto the front foot and saying to students that if they really want to get the most out of their year or years at our university, then a little bit of tuition in English might be of assistance."

The agency's positive commendations covered areas including the university's governance, innovations in teaching, and staff performance.

The audit said: "There can be no doubt that the university has been achieving outstanding research outcomes. It is consistently one of the highest generators of external research revenue and has one of the largest postgraduate research student cohorts."

Professor Hearn said: "We are very happy with this report, and its findings are very positive in endorsing the major parts of our operation.

"Our rejoicings are that we now have endorsed quality products in teaching, research and in our management of our assets."

However, the audit also highlighted that a number of staff and students believed that the university needed to better maintain its teaching premises. Overcrowding was a big problem.

"Students reported that many of the teaching classrooms are overcrowded, suggesting problems with timetabling," the audit said.

"In some cases this results in students not being able to attend class.

"Moreover, students also stated that a number of the classrooms are windowless, with air-conditioning that does not appear to work effectively and teaching aids, such as overhead projectors, that do not always work."

The university's many heritage-listed buildings for which no special funding is provided was identified in the report as a "complicating factor", inhibiting their redevelopment or maintenance.

Reported in Sydney Morning Herald
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When dollars, not marks, get you a university place

Thousands of students are now finding that equality comes at a price, writes Louise Merrington.

Intellectual capability has tragically little to do with entrance to Australian universities - the hard truth is that if you are willing and able to pay your way in, academic performance is a secondary consideration.

Throughout their schooling, but particularly during their senior years, students and their families are constantly told university entrance is based on merit and intelligence. They are led to believe that the number allocated to a course indicates how smart you need to be to study it. If you don't get the score then you obviously won't suit the course.

In reality, however, the ENTER is little more than an indicator of supply and demand. If a course with a limited number of HECS places is popular, the score goes up. Full-fee places are less popular; thus the score is lower and entrance much easier - provided, of course, you have the money.

My cynicism stems from experience. Two years ago I was one of 34,000 Victorian students receiving first-round university offers. In spite of an ENTER score in the high 90s, I missed out on my first preference, and only narrowly made it into my second preference, which, at the end of 2002, had an ENTER requirement of 98. What continues to gall me, however, is that if I had been willing to pay nearly $15,000 a year, my score could have been up to 10 points lower and I would still have been admitted.

In a system where the decimal point on your score can be the difference between being admitted to a HECS place or missing out completely, a 10-point buffer for domestic full-fee-paying students is nothing short of ridiculous. Such a yawning chasm laughs in the faces of those students who work hard through years 11 and 12 only to miss out at the final hurdle because of a system that is geared against them.

Domestic full-fee places also pose another, less documented threat. When degrees become commodities to be bought and sold, rather than qualifications earned solely through hard work and academic achievement, they begin to lose their value. Universities are transforming from centres of learning into mere corporations, where academia must be sacrificed to balance the books, and students are missing out as a result. Even those who get in face higher staff-student ratios, the casualisation of lecture and tutorial staff that makes it far more difficult to seek academic support, and a host of other problems.

As this year's round of university offers continues to emerge, so will the disturbing figures. Even in areas such as teaching and nursing, which, we are continually told, face appalling shortages of well-trained and qualified staff, it is highly likely that the demand for HECS places will once again outweigh the supply. It seems that the Government is yet to grasp the idea that sound investment in universities today will bring immeasurable returns in the future.

These students are tomorrow's doctors, nurses, educators, lawyers, engineers, architects, researchers, scientists and other professionals. They will be the ones that design our infrastructure, defend our freedoms, teach our children and save our lives. Consequently, if the Government continues to strangle universities in the interests of short-term gain, the decision will inevitably return to bite them in the proverbial behind.

Changes such as the recent Nelson reforms (which allowed universities to increase HECS fees by up to 25 per cent and domestic full-fee places by up to 35 per cent) will survive long after the ministers who implemented them have been forgotten, and students will continue paying for these policy errors for generations. It is critical that the politicians of today look beyond their own careers and do what is best for Australia's future, even if it means that some rich noses will be put out of joint.

If our universities are to remain world-class institutions of learning and research, they must be properly funded so that their resources can be spent on education. And if today's students are to grow into competent, highly sought-after professionals, then they must be able to access an affordable education. Yet as tens of thousands of students are finding out this week, equality in this country increasingly comes at a price.

Louise Merrington is a member of the editorial team of SAGE (The Age's youth supplement).

Reported in The Age
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Help DIMIA track illegal workers and students

A telephone service for reporting illegal workers and visa over-stayers has taken more than 21,000 calls from the community since it was launched in February 2004.

Minister for Immigration, Amanda Vanstone, said the community plays a critical role in protecting our immigration system by using the Dob-in Line.

‘Information from the Dob-in Line is passed to Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) compliance officers around the country Australia who use the information to help locate people who have over-stayed their visa or are working illegally,’ the Minister said.

‘An estimated 50,000 people are unlawfully in Australia at any one time. Of these, a large number are probably working in breach of their visa conditions.’

In 2003-04, DIMIA located over 20,000 visa over-stayers and illegal workers. There were around 11,000 in New South Wales, 4,500 in Victoria, 2,000 in Queensland, and more than 1,500 in Western Australia.

There were also about 500 in South Australia, 265 in the Australian Capital Territory and Regions, 184 in the Northern Territory and 62 in Tasmania.

‘DIMIA’s compliance teams across Australia are focused on a variety of industries including accommodation, cafes and restaurants, agriculture, forestry and fishing, manufacturing, construction and personal and other services,’ the Minister said.

People who have information about illegal workers or over-stayers are encouraged phone the Dob-In Line on 1800 009 623.

So far this financial year, DIMIA officers have located about 9,300 people unlawfully in Australia or working in breach of visa conditions, (to the end of November.)

‘DIMIA has excellent facilities to assist employers to ensure they are hiring workers entitled to work in Australia,’ the Minister said.

To advise the department about a person working or living illegally in Australia, please call the free national telephone number 1800 009 623 or FAX 1800 009 849. Any information provided by members of the community about people working or living illegally in Australia will be treated in the strictest confidence. For Melbourne Metropolitan region only, use the following fax number: 03 9235 3040.

Employers can check the work status of potential employees by using the following facilities:

->Entitlement Verification Online

->Work Rights Faxback Facility (1800 505 550), and

->Employers’ Work Right Checking Line (1800 040 070).

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'Brain drain' in Victoria

UNDER-FUNDING of Victorian universities was causing a brain drain in the state, the federal opposition said today.

New figures on the Department of Education, Science and Training website indicate 5341 Victorian students left the state to undertake tertiary studies last year, Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said.

"The brain drain means that nearly 2000 of the best and brightest young Victorians are being sent to NSW to start their university studies and more than 3000 are going to the other states and territories," she said.

"It is ridiculous that a state with such a strong university sector should be forced to export students to other states."

Ms Macklin said the Federal Government's decision to cut 2400 HECS places from Victorian universities from this year made the situation worse.

National president of the National Union of Students, Felix Eldridge, said the Federal Government's university funding cuts have had an impact on the quality of courses available.

"Students are being forced to travel interstate to do courses that they want because the funding isn't there for all universities everywhere to provide good quality education," he said.

A spokesman for Dr Nelson said there would be more, not less, fully funded HECS places for Victorian universities this year.

"The Government has just passed a reform package that has put more than $2.6 billion into universities over the next four years," he said.

"In fact, Victorian universities will be allocated more than 2600 new fully funded HECS places.

Reported in The Australian
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IT company sues Victoria University of Technology for $48m

VICTORIA University of Technology is being sued for $48 million in an intellectual property dispute, one of the biggest claims ever to be brought against a tertiary institution.

IT and software group iP3 was founded by two academics - Ken Wilson and Donald Feaver - who were working for VUT at the time.

The university took the men and their company to court when they entered into an agreement with an overseas company to develop and patent computer software programs.

VUT took out injunctions on the company on the basis that the university owned the intellectual property of the software. The Supreme Court of Victoria found in February last year that the university did not own the intellectual property of the software because it was invented outside the scope of the academics' employment there.

But the court also found the academics had a duty to inform the university of their research and that the university was entitled to a share of the profits.

IP3 is now suing VUT - in one of the largest claims ever brought against a university - for loss of business and harm to the company resulting from VUT having taken out the injunctions.

IP3 chief executive Ahmed Youssef said the company had been valued at between $50 million and $60 million and had been attracting considerable interest from overseas companies before VUT took out the injunction in June 2003.

"The company was the meat in the sandwich (between the two academics and the university) and we are now worth much less," Mr Youssef said.

"It was 20 months of hell for my company and I have lost about 60per cent of my staff because of the uncertainty we face. We are back to work now but it will take us some time to catch up."

He said the unlisted Australian public company had about 100 shareholders - some of whom had put their superannuation into the company expecting a large return on their investment - who had all been left in limbo.

VUT issued a statement yesterday saying "it is hard to comment because this is the subject of ongoing litigation and the university has no information on the amended claim at this point, having only been alerted to this issue via the media".

The two academics - Professor Wilson, who worked in the faculty of business and law and was head of the school of applied economics, and Mr Feaver, who was a senior lecturer in applied economics - resigned from the company early last year.

Reported in The Australian
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Assessment level changes for few countries

From 1 April 2005, a number of countries will move to a lower Assessment Level. This reflects improved performance of certain countries against key indicators of risk and builds on earlier changes to European Union accession countries’ Assessment Levels in November 2004.

The changes are expected to make it easier for passport holders from these countries to meet the requirements for the grant of a student visa.

For futher details Click Here

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Indian Students - Your Golden Chance to Participate in a 'Research on Indian Students in Australia'

Michiel Baas is a Dutch PhD student from the University of Amsterdam (Holland), who is doing research on Indian students in Melbourne, Australia. His research focuses on three questions:

- Why do Indian students come to Australia to study there ?

- What do their lives and lifestyles look like when they are studying in Australia ?

- What are their plans after graduation ?

From February 2005 Michiel Baas will be in Melbourne to meet, talk to and interview Indian students from different universities. At the moment he is trying to get in touch with Indian students who are either planning on going to, or who are already in, Australia. If students are concerned about confidentiality, there is no need for that. Although he will use the information for his research, he will never do so in connection with a person's name or give details so that a certain individual could be recognized by others.

Before Michiel Baas started doing his PhD he did a Bachelor in International Management and worked for computer giant IBM for a couple of years. Then he did his bachelor and master in cultural anthropology. His master thesis was on Indian IT professionals who live and work in Bangalore, India, where he lived for half a year in order to doresearch. You can contact Michiel Baas by mailing him on:


CQU creates history

For the first time in Australia a new qualification will combine TAFE and university study to provide tailor-made training for the coal industry, Employment, Training and Industrial Relations Minister Tom Barton said today.

Mr Barton said Central Queensland TAFE and Central Queensland University worked together to develop the new qualification which was tailor-made for a recruitment drive by one of Australia's largest coal producers, Anglo Coal.

"This innovative partnership is just one example of the State Government working with the Central Queensland Mining Industry to address skill shortages," Mr Barton said.

"We are also on track to establish the Mining Centre of Excellence in the first half of this year. Modeled on the highly successful Aviation Australia - which was established by the Queensland Government to provide skills for the aviation industry - the Mining Centre will see industry and Government working together to address identified skills-related issues.

"We will be ramping-up consultations with mining companies, the Queensland Mining Industry Training Advisory Body and other industry stakeholders in coming months to work with them to establish the Centre and to produce the training solutions needed.

"We are proposing a joint industry and public sector governance arrangement with Centre staff being appointed from the mining industry. We want the centre to be industry-focused and industry-owned.

"The mining sector is a vital part of Queensland's economy and we are committed to ensuring the industry remains strong."

Mr Barton said the Anglo Coal, Central Queensland TAFE and Central Queensland University training program was the first in Australia to offer vocational training and university study concurrently for the coal industry.

"Anglo Coal has a head office in Brisbane and nine mine sites in Central Queensland, including open cut and underground mines, thermal coal mines and coking coal operations, as well as thermal coal operations in New South Wales," he said.

"The company wanted a customised study program that combined practical training with academic learning to help recruit people to newly created Mining Associates positions in their mines across Eastern Australia.

"Initially, up to 10 people will be selected by Anglo Coal for the four-year program to receive an advanced diploma-level qualification in engineering."

Anglo Coal's Chief Mining Engineer -Surface Operations Warren Seib said the new training arrangement would ensure the recruits gained specific knowledge and skills the company required from its mining professionals.

"It is ideal for Anglo Coal to have a program of study designed to give our new employees both a formal education and on-the-job experience," Mr Seib said.

"We knew that TAFE and Central Queensland University were both quality educators and had an excellent working relationship. This unique collaboration will allow our newest recruits to experience the best of both worlds."
The training program will be delivered in Central Queensland in 2005,

SOURCE - Queensland Government
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Immigration at 10-year high

The number of migrants and refugees settling in Australia is at a 10-year high, according to the latest figures on Australia's annual immigration intake.

The data also shows a large decline in migrants settling in New South Wales.

Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone says more than 111,000 people settled in Australia in the past financial year, an increase of nearly 20,000 on the previous year.

Senator Vanstone says while the biggest group of 40,000 still settled in NSW, that represents a decline of 7,000 people on figures from three years ago.

She says the drop for NSW is in line with the Federal Government's efforts to encourage migrants to settle elsewhere.

Victoria had 28,000 migrants, Queensland 20,000 and Western Australia close behind with 15,000 migrants.

The largest number of people came from the United Kingdom, followed by arrivals from New Zealand, China, India, South Africa, Sudan and the Philippines.

Senator Vanstone says the record number of people settling in Australia does not signal a return to the high immigration days of previous Labor governments.

"The immigration intake under the Howard Government is markedly different from that under the previous government," she said.

"We've shifted very much to a skilled migration intake bringing in people who are under 45, are qualified and can very quickly get a job and contribute to the Australian economy."

Senator Vanstone says the decline in new arrivals in New South Wales shows the Federal Government's regional migration scheme is working.

"Both Victoria and South Australia have been very prominent users of that opportunity and we've been keen in the immigration program to make sure that people go where they are wanted," she said.

"Because there has been a decline in NSW in the numbers ... I think that confirms that we are doing is working."

However, the Federal Opposition says a more cohesive approach is needed for Australia's population growth.

Opposition immigration spokesman Laurie Ferguson says immigration is only part of the solution for Australia's needs.

"We need a long-term population policy as to where we are going in the next decade or two," he said.

Mr Ferguson says despite a decline of 7,000 people for NSW, the overall figure of 40,000 means the overwhelming number of immigrants still settle in Sydney.

He says programs for other states need to be expanded.

Reported in ABC News

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Raids by DIMIA leads to cancellation of student visas

Several overseas students have had their visas cancelled after being caught working unlawfully in the sex industry, according to government figures seen by the Herald.

The figures, compiled by the Department of Immigration, also show that 15 per cent of those working lawfully in the sex industry were overseas students.

"In 2003-04, 23 student visa holders were located working unlawfully in the sex industry," the department said in a written response to a Senate committee.

"The department has also been collecting manually data on persons found working in the sex industry and where no action is taken by DIMIA [Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs]. From March-October 2004 emerging data trends indicate that 15 per cent of those found working lawfully in the sex industry held student visas (a total of 50 persons)."

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said yesterday that the vast majority of sex worker cases did not involve trafficking in human cargo.

"In most cases it's simply people trying to earn extra cash," he said.

"Emerging trends show an increase in South Koreans working in the sex industry; before that it was Malaysians.

"Our compliance system is focused across a wide range of industries - taxis, security, building, restaurants and hospitality - not just the sex industry."

The spokesman said the immigration "dob-in" line, where people could phone and alert authorities to overseas visitors overstaying visas or working illegally, was working well.

Students are deemed to be working illegally and in breach of their visas if they work more than 20 hours a week.

The Department said it had "heard anecdotally" that some overseas students face financial hardship while in Australia.

"The Department is concerned if this anecdote is correct," it said.

"DIMIA will investigate any such cases, but details are required in order to do this."

It took seriously any issues arising in relation to the care and welfare of overseas students and had established student welfare reference groups in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth where the vast bulk of overseas students studied.

The overseas student market is worth $5.6billion a year to the economy.

DIMIA also cancels student visas if it finds evidence of the student being involved in any illegal, illicit, dishonest and criminal activity in Australia.

The Department also said it had not undertaken any formal studies on why student visas had been cancelled. But, it noted a rise in student visa cancellations from 3986 in 2000-01 to 7049 in 2001-02 following the introduction of mandatory reporting of students failing to attend classes to the Department of Education. By 2003-04 the number of student visa cancellations had reached 8241.

According to the questions put to the department, the Sydney Business and Travel Academy had 105 visas cancelled in 2002-03.

Asked to supply details of any investigations being conducted, the Department said: "DIMIA Compliance is investigating this issue so no comment can be made at this stage".

Reported in The Herald
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Universities help in wake of tsunami

UNIVERSITIES are looking at fee relief, scholarships and other forms of financial assistance for international students from countries devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami.

On the first working day of the year yesterday, staff at many universities held emergency meetings to map out plans for helping affected students enrolled on their campuses.

Global emails were sent out to staff and students at universities with big international enrolments, reminding them about counselling and other support services.

The Department of Education, Science and Training has set up hotlines and websites for students as it tries to gauge the effect of the tsunami on the education sectors.

It said the next stage would be to work with universities to provide support and pastoral care to students and to liaise with peak international education bodies to identify issues arising in the aftermath of the tsunami.

DEST's international division, Australian Education International, is providing regular updates through two websites at and

International students can also ring DEST at (02) 6240 5069 and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs on 1300 735 683.

Last year about 210,000 foreign students were enrolled in courses at Australian universities. The biggest proportion of those students come from countries hit by the tsunami, such as India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Monash estimates that 6000 of its 15,000 foreign students are from affected countries.

It is considering options for fee relief for students whose families have been hit by the disaster.

Corporate services director of Monash International, John Rivett, said the university might help international students in Australia to return home.

A spokesperson for the University of NSW said about 3700 of its students were from affected countries.

More than 4000 of RMIT's students are from India, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

University of Tasmania held a concert and raised funds for relief work.

Vice-chancellor Chris Whitaker said the university was considering a raft of measures, including scholarships and other financial support.

IDP Education Australia and Australian Education International said staff in their overseas offices were safe and well. And none of their offshore offices had been damaged.

However, IDP reported that two staff in its Sri Lanka office lost their homes.

Curtin University of Technology - one of the big four enrollers of international students - is closed until Monday.

Reported in The Australian
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International students react to higher fees

AUSTRALIA risks pricing out overseas students by hiking fees and risking quality, deputy Opposition leader Jenny Macklin has warned.

Amid fears of a looming threat to the $5billion-a-year industry, international students have also warned Australian costs are nudging the US for high-fee degrees, including MBAs and commerce.

A recent drop in demand for university places from overseas students has been blamed on the rising Australian dollar and increased competition from Asian nations.

However, in her strongest warning to date on the education export market, Ms Macklin has warned that prices are too high and plans to relax the criteria for what institutions qualify as a university could drive down quality.

"Basically, the danger is that we are pricing ourselves out of the market," she told the HES.

"And of course, it is a highly competitive overseas market. Yes, we have a good product but the price is important.

"Universities are now highly dependent on the revenue they receive from international students. If that falls away they are going to be in very difficult financial circumstances."

National Liaison Committee for International Students in Australia spokesman Aditya Tater said students were reporting "big differences" in quality between universities, regardless of fees charged.

"The prices for the various courses are going up every year but the quality is staying the same," he said. "If you look at Singapore and Malaysia, student numbers from those countries have gone down because their education systems have improved and students are staying there. In certain cases, the course fees are quite high, they are almost up there with the US."

Research prepared by IDP Australia, an independent non-profit global recruiter of students, suggested serious risks threatened the education export market. In a paper presented to the IDP conference late last year, Comparative Costs of Higher Education Courses - Update 2004, analyst Marcelo Follari found Australia remains competitive in relation to the US and the UK.

But the median fee for an engineering degree was $90,019, on a par with the $91,670 cost in the UK and $119,882 in the US.

The cost of a bachelor degree in IT ranged from $32,836 in China to $61,818 in Australia and $130,856 in Ireland.

Students seeking a bachelor of business could pick up a degree for $31,731 in China, $54,331 in Singapore, $60,464 in Australia, $77,890 in the UK and up to $167,828 at a US private university.

The research concluded that: "Australia is competitive in price against the US, UK and Ireland. Australia is not competitive against emerging Asian study destinations. China is expecting record numbers of students to enrol in its universities this year as foreigners seek to cash in on the country's booming economy by becoming proficient in Mandarin."

Education Minister Brendan Nelson's plan to review the national protocols defining universities, possibly introducing greater flexibility for new higher education providers was another concern, Ms Macklin said.

Acting education minister Gary Hardgraves said the Howard Government did not determine overseas student fees. "International student fees are set by the individual universities and it is a matter for those institutions," he said yesterday.

Reported in The Australian
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Shortage fears as IT graduates dry up

FEARS of a return to the late 1990s, when there was a shortage of IT graduates, have been fuelled by universities reporting a slump in applications for next year.

Despite an employment upswing this year, recent reports reveal vacancies for IT graduates have tripled over the past year, as school leavers are shying away from a technology career.

University of Technology Sydney associate dean of Information Technology David Wilson reported a 50 per cent cumulative fall in enrolment applications from 2002 to 2004.

Applications for 2003 entry had dropped 25 per cent on 2002 and demand for 2004 entry had fallen another 24 per cent.

"While there is more positive news about IT employment, applications have still fallen another 12 to 15 per cent this year, which is going to put pressure on the industry because there are going to be fewer students in IT across the country," Professor Wilson said.

"It is quite likely we are entering another boom-bust cycle, so there is going to be high demand but relatively low numbers of graduates coming out of IT courses. This is going to create the kinds of problems we had in the mid-1990s and that is a major concern."

Professor Wilson said the decrease in applications was particularly obvious in specialised technology degrees.

"The most surprising is our scholarship program, which might be partly explained by the fact it is aimed purely at school leavers and there is a feeling their response is on a two-year lag," he said.

Although many universities had bolstered staff numbers to deal with the surge in demand in the 1990s, many IT departments were overstaffed and had reduced staff numbers this year.

Dean of Monash University's IT faculty Professor Ron Weber said the fall in applications for 2005 was not unexpected, but demand should follow the rise in jobs.

But he predicted the fall in student demand would begin to turn around in 2006.

"However, I think there are certainly concerns emerging that we are getting to a point where there will be shortages of qualified graduates," he said.

IT Skills Hub chief executive Brian Donovan said the recovery in the jobs market had been dampened by news of a drop-off in new recruits to the sector.

"It is cause for us to be concerned about the longer term picture that is only four or five years' away," he said.

The IT Skills Hub is proposing a marketing campaign targeting the youth market – particularly girls – driven by industry, government and the education sector.

Reported in The Australian IT
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Australia becomes popular with American students

Although Doreen Strauss is a freshman, she is already planning to study abroad the fall semester of her junior year.

She said she is headed for blue skies, sandy beaches and rainless semesters down under in Australia.

"I've seen pictures and the country is beautiful," Strauss (freshman-communications) said. "I would love to study in a place like that."

According to a survey done by the Institute of International Education, the enrollment of U.S. students in Australian universities has increased by 13 percent this year.

Australia has now been placed among the top five most popular locations for American students who are studying abroad.

Number of American Students Studying Abroad
1. United Kingdom -- 31,706
2. Italy -- 18, 936
3. Spain -- 18,865
4. France -- 13,080
5. Australia -- 10,691

Education Abroad Director John Keller said Australia has gained popularity in the last 10 years because of a so-called Crocodile Dundee effect.

He said popular movies and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney have given Australia more widespread exposure to college students.

Penn State has about 10 partnerships with Australian universities to give students a wide selection, Keller said.

"I lived in Australia; it is an English-speaking country, great people and universities," he said.

Lindsey Alexander (senior-crime, law and justice) studied in Australia and is a peer adviser at Penn State's International Programs Office.

She said the best part of the semester was having heartfelt conversations with everyone she met and learning there is more to life than just a job.

Having spent so much time "down under," Alexander said she has one regret about her stay there -- buying roundtrip airfare.

"Buy a one-way ticket because you will want to stay longer than a semester," Alexander said.

She added that a one-way ticket would provide a chance for students to travel to other countries on the way back.

Some of the more popular majors studied in Australia are agriculture and fishery sciences since there is a wide expanse of untouched land, Alexander said.

She said Australia has now become a very competitive place for Penn State students to apply.

Jen Nielsen, marketing associate for Australian-based company IDP Education Australia, said students are interested in Australia because it is less expensive, culturally rich and a non-traditional location.

IDP works with Australian universities to find interest among U.S. students looking to study abroad or get a graduate degree in Australia.

"Australia has been really popular within the past 15 years ... and continues to be more popular every year," Nielsen said.

Lisa Leggett (senior-mechanical engineering) studied at the University of Melbourne while attending Penn State.

"I always wanted to study in Australia," she said.

"It seemed like a friendly, laid-back place with tons of stuff to do outdoors," Leggett added.

She added that her opinion is that Australia may have become popular for so many American students because English is so widely spoken.

Keller said that although Australia is a prime location for studying abroad, prices are increasing.

"One thing that is happening is Australia is becoming increasingly expensive, so it is making U.S. universities re-think partnerships," Keller said.

The application deadlines for the 2005-06 academic year was Dec. 1 for the fall 2005 semester.

The deadline is April 1 for the spring 2006 semester, Alexander said.

Reported in The Digital Collegian

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Universities lukewarm on changes

AUSTRALIAN universities have poured cold water on the federal government's plan to seize control of them from the states, saying they are unconvinced they will be better off.

The federal government has released a discussion paper outlining the pros and cons of its plan, originally floated last month.

The paper says if the move goes ahead, it could stifle diversity and put at risk $200 million in funding universities receive from the states and territories.

However it also says the plan could slash bureaucratic red tape and make Australian universities more internationally competitive.

The Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee (AVCC) said the paper raised more questions than it answered.

AVCC chief executive John Mullarvey said while the sector welcomed debate about its future, universities were yet to be convinced of any need for change.

"The AVCC is not convinced of the merits of a one size fits all approach to higher education," he said.

"We do not want uniformity; we want and need a diverse university system."

Mr Mullarvey said while universities would welcome any reduction in red tape, changes introduced in recent years by the federal government had increased it.

The Commonwealth currently provides 41 per cent of the $12.4 billion revenue received by 39 universities and higher education institutions across Australia.

The states provide about two per cent of total revenue, but actually have legal ownership of the institutions and are responsibility for their administration and course accreditation.

In turn, universities have to provide financial reports to both the federal and state governments.

Education Minister Brendan Nelson said while the system needed to change because it was too complex, the states would not be forced to give up their control over universities.

"If in the end the states and territories and the university sector believe that on balance they don't want to do it, well of course we can't, nor should we, force it," he told ABC radio.

"Although, the NSW government has already indicated that it thinks the long-term interests of higher education is served by doing it."

Dr Nelson said if the states agreed to the plan, the transfer of control could happen in the next two to three years.

But he played down the possibility of the states slicing the $200 million they currently contribute to universities if the transfer of control takes place.

"If, in the end, the states and territories and the university sector believe that on balance they don't want to do it, then of course we can't, nor should we force it, although the NSW government has already indicated that it thinks the long-term interests of higher education are served by doing it," Dr Nelson said.

Labor's acting leader and education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said the federal government was overlooking the biggest problems facing universities.

"Brendan Nelson has failed to explain how his proposal for federal control of higher education will address the real problems faced by our universities – high fees, too few HECS places, and lack of indexation of university funding under the Howard government," she said.

"The Education Minister wants to distract attention from the fact that the Howard Government is forcing students and their families to make up for inadequate funding."

"The problem is that the Howard Government has forced up fees over the last eight years by on average 100 per cent and, of course, students are about to face another 25 per cent fee hike from next year.

"Students are voting with their feet, they are saying we can't afford those sort of fees." Democrats leader Lyn Allison said the proposal could result in further fee increases and unfettered funding cuts.

"Why should the states hand over control of universities to a federal government that has not only cut university funding by around $2.5 billion between 1996 and 2003, but will also make students pay an additional $1.2 billion in fees over the next four years to compensate?" Senator Allison said.

National Tertiary Education Union spokesman Andrew Nette said the union could see little benefit and a number of substantial risks in the plan.

"Taking the states and territories out of the picture altogether runs the risk of reducing diversity and distancing our universities from the regions and communities they serve," he said.


DISCLAIMER : Media releases are provided as is by the source mentioned and have not been edited or checked for accuracy. Any queries should be directed to the source of the article itself.


Immigration Legislation Changes


From 1 April 2005 the passmark for Skilled – Independent Overseas Student (Subclass 880) visa applications will increase from 115 points to 120 points.

The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone, announced this increase on 1 April 2004.

The 120 pass mark will apply to all Subclass 880 applications lodged from 1 April 2005 onwards, irrespective of whether a Graduate Skilled Temporary visa (Subclass 497) was lodged prior to 1 April 2005. There are no transitional provisions in place to allow Subclass 497 visa holders to be assessed against the pre-1 April 2005 pass mark from 1 April 2005.


Hairdressers with a positive skills assessment from Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) will receive MODL points. They will not be required to demonstrate that they have at least 3 years relevant experience following completion of their hairdressing qualification in order to receive MODL points.

20 Points if you have a have a job offer as a hairdresser in Australia from an organisation that has employed at least 10 people on a full time basis in the 24 months immediately prior to the date you lodged your application.

15 Points If you do not have a job offer as a hairdresser in Australia.

Applicants with a suitable skills assessment in their nominated occupation of hairdresser will be eligible to receive 60 points plus the MODL points. This arrangement applies to applications made on or after 8 September 2004 .

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DISCLAIMER : Media releases are provided as is by the source mentioned and have not been edited or checked for accuracy. Any queries should be directed to the source of the article itself.


People in Australia affected by the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean

Any person who usually lives in an area that has been directly affected by the tsunami who wishes to temporarily extend their stay in Australia should contact the department using the emergency hotline.
Phone: 1300 735 683

Each application will be considered on a case by case basis.

The Emergency Hotline is only available to people calling from within Australia.
Phone: 1300 735 683

Callers outside Australia should contact their nearest Australian Embassy or Government office.

Visa and citizenship services at the Australian Embassies and the High Commissions in countries affected by the tsunami are operating, with services currently restricted in Colombo and Bangkok.

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DISCLAIMER : Media releases are provided as is by the source mentioned and have not been edited or checked for accuracy. Any queries should be directed to the source of the article itself.