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Oz minister threatened with legal action over new visa rules

world Updated: Dec 01, 2010 14:55 IST

Terming changes in visa rules as "unfair", small private education providers in Australia have threatened immigration minister Chris Bowen with legal action over the "reckless" move that has split the overseas student sector.

The changes give preference to higher education diplomas over vocational diplomas and the move has sparked recriminations amid concerns students will shift from vocational colleges and TAFEs into higher education providers such as universities, The Australian said in a report in Wednesday.

According to the report, a Brisbane-based private provider Kelly Colleges has sought an injunction to stop the changes while Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Directors Australia was also seeking legal advice.

Kelly director Natasha Mayrseidl said that the changes were "unfair" and would benefit large private provider Navitas at the expense of smaller providers.

Immigration Department had transferred higher education diplomas and advanced diplomas into the subclass 573 higher education visa that offers applicants easier requirements to secure visas.

It left vocational education and training diplomas and advanced diplomas in the 572 VET subclass that generally has stricter hurdles around financial requirements.

In announcing its decision, the government said that the changes had been supported by peak bodies and specifically mentioned the support of Navitas which, along with Universities Australia, has welcomed the changes.

Australian Council of Private Education and Training (ACPET) of which Navitas is the largest member has dubbed the changes as "reckless" and warned against further job losses and college closures.

Navitas, whose business is weighted to higher education, has condemned ACPET's response and warned that it is now revising its membership.

A spokesman for immigration said that the changes had the "overwhelming" support of the peak bodies consulted.

"I am furious that the Australian government would so recklessly and contemptuously misrepresent consultations with the international education sector to justify these changes," ACPET's acting chief executive Claire Field said in a statement.

Navitas chief executive Rod Jones said that Field's response was "inappropriate" and the changes simply restored the previous treatment of higher education diplomas.