International recruiters in China are "fed up" with the Australian government's attitude to immigration and are directing students to the US and UK instead, according to an Australian agent.
John Findley said Australia was becoming less popular because of the exchange rate, high tuition fees, less attractive commissions for agents and the greater ease of securing visas to the US and UK. He told The Australian newspaper: "All agents (in China) are fed up with our current government's attitude to migration."
The comments demonstrate the extent to which perceptions of government visa policy among students and agents can affect universities' attractiveness.
Despite Mr Findley's suggestion that the UK is among the nations taking Australia's place in the overseas market, many in Britain are worried that changes to the Tier 4 visa system may put off students.
Mr Findley, whom The Australian described as an education and migration expert who represents a "range of providers", said the US F-1 and British Tier 4 student visas were regarded as easier to obtain than Australia's 573 student visa.
"Australia is seen as second rate in the global education stakes. It gets the student business because the students see a pathway to migration," he said.
He added that all the agency sales staff he had met at the recent Beijing International Expo were trying to get into their company's US department.
"The best recruiters are deserting Australia. All agencies, including (Australia's biggest education broker) IDP, promote the US on their websites. These days, most make the US their headline offering; many are relegating Australia to third, or fourth behind New Zealand. Australia (used to be) the headline," he said.
However, an IDP spokesman denied that the broker promoted the US ahead of Australia. "Australia is the main part of our business and will remain so. By offering the US as a destination, as well as Australia, we reach a far larger pool of students interested in international education," the spokesman said.