International education is considered a soft power by many developing countries due to the many benefits it brings. Aside from boosting a nation’s economy and shoring up employment statistics, it also promotes more diverse and inclusive communities.
This is why, despite the huge challenges imposed by the pandemic, top study destinations such as Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom are relentless in implementing policies and programs that support the aspirations of global learners.
In this article, we will revisit the recent initiatives, programs, and policy changes made by these countries aimed at somehow breaking down roadblocks and ensuring that international students enjoy study-abroad opportunities.
- In Australia, an option to study remotely for student visa holders has been implemented.
- Updates in Canada’s student immigration initiatives include a new pathway program for permanent residency, an expansion of the Student Direct Stream to 14 new countries, and an extension of the post-graduate work permit rules for students who took courses outside the country
- The United Kingdom has announced the Graduate Route which enables international graduates from a recognized UK HEI to stay on and gain professional work experience
While the Australian government is yet to open the borders for inbound travelers due to the persistent health crisis, an option to study remotely for student visa holders has been implemented.
It is worth noting that Australia’s international education sector has a $40-billion annual economic contribution and 250,000 jobs supported as of 2020. This is why the Morrisson government has devised student visa adjustments that remain appealing to global learners despite the pandemic.
For one, it recommenced in July 2020 the approval of student visa applications in all locations outside Australia to ensure that international students will have ease of travel and have the requirements when bans are lifted.
Additionally, the Morrison government has also allowed global learners to apply for student visa extension free of charge in case they were unable to fulfill their studies within their original visa validity due to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, those with approved study permits and who began their program through remote learning will also be eligible to apply for a post-study work permit. Additional time is given to applicants who are yet to provide English language results in case access to such services is disrupted by COVID-19.
As vaccination against COVID-19 is ramped up, some stakeholders in the education sector in Australia have recently called for a ‘vaccination passport’ arrangement. This is in the cautious hope of opening the borders for global learners. The government, meanwhile, has been in talks with other world leaders to make a recognized system for travel resumption.
We all know that Canada is a favorite destination among international students due to its multicultural communities. This is besides the fact that earning a degree from a Canadian HEI makes global learners highly employable.
As such, the international education scene in Canada has become an invaluable resource. Despite the pandemic-induced travel restrictions being a challenge to the economy, the Canadian government has persistently come up with ways to make immigration, particularly to international students and graduates, more appealing and accessible.
For instance, a new pathway to permanent residency was announced in May 2021 by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship of Canada (IRCC) Marco Mendicino. This opens a pathway for permanent residence for up to 90,000 essential workers and international students who recently graduated.
Another great news for global learners despite the pandemic is the expansion of the Student Direct Stream (SDS) to 14 countries. The newly added countries are Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Antigua and Barbuda, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadine.
Since its launch in 2018, SDS has been expediting study permit processing for global learners who are planning to enroll at a Canadian designated learning institution or DLI. The earlier list of countries where SDS are available includes China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, Morocco, and Senegal.
In February of this year, the IRCC extended the post-graduate work permit rules for global learners who took their courses online. This keeps the opportunity of gaining work experience in Canada despite their plans being stalled by pandemic-induced travel restrictions.
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has been known for its world-renowned research facilities and these have attracted many international students. The UK government has also been implementing policies and programs that support global learners who wish to study there.
Despite the persisting pandemic, the UK has launched a new program that will benefit global learners and the greater international education scene–the new post-study work visa route for international students.
Dubbed the Graduate Route and in line with the UK’s points-based immigration system, this program enables international graduates from a recognized UK HEI to stay in the country and gain professional experience for at least two years. This is also deemed to benefit many Indian students as many foreign students from this country aspire to be trained in UK’s above-average education system which may help them pursue global careers.
The UK’s points-based system allows immigrants from anywhere in the world to be assessed based on merit. This gives immigrants from EU and non-EU countries equal footing as their visa is granted based on their skills and potential contribution to the economy rather than from their country of origin, nationality, or economic background.
If there is one thing that these positive developments have magnified, it is the fact that the contribution of international education is immense. As there is no crisis too big to crush the determination of international students, it is inspiring to know that the government, HEIs, and student recruitment agents are working together to help push their dreams forward. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)
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Suneetha has more than 10 years of experience in the international education sector. As president of MSM GMO, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray in edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each GMO partner institution, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application pre-screening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.
She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.
Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.