Canberra tightens rules for English standards

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2007, 12:00am

Foreign students applying to enrol in Australian education institutions will face stricter tests of their English-language competency under changes to the skilled migration programme.

The government announced last week that students and migrants with professional or technical skills would have to achieve a score of six on the International English Language Testing Scheme to demonstrate they were competent to speak, read and write the language.

The changes follow mounting concern among Australian academics and employers that foreign students are graduating from university and vocational colleges and applying for permanent residency despite having a poor command of English.

From September, the language threshold will be raised from five to six on the IELTS for all visas.

Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop and the Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews announced the reforms that will also reduce the number of visa categories from 11 to four and visa subclasses from 15 to nine.

Ms Bishop said requiring students to have a higher standard of English would ensure Australia maintained its reputation as a provider of high-quality education for overseas students.

Mr Andrews said the structural reforms would benefit applicants with more qualifications and a greater proficiency of English.

'This will lead to better labour market outcomes for all skilled migration applicants and help deliver the skills Australian employers need,' he said.