Training college operator threatens legal action against Immigration Minister over visa changes

A Brisbane-based training college operator says its business will be hurt by “destructive” changes made to the Federal Government’s education visa regime, and is considering legal action against Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.

Kelly Colleges, which operates English and business colleges, has sent Bowen a letter of demand to try to prevent the changes announced last week.

The Department of Immigration’s changes mean students studying for higher education diplomas and advanced diplomas can access the subclass 573 higher education visa, which is seen as easier to secure.

But students studying vocational education and training diplomas and advanced diplomas do so under the 572 VET subclass, which is seen as harder to secure because it has a tougher financial requirements.

The managing director of Kelly Colleges, Natasha Mayrseidl says the latest changes come after a year in which economic woes and other regulatory changes have seen international student numbers drop by 30%, and says more education sector jobs are now in jeopardy.

She told SmartCompany she has had a huge response from the sector since announcing her potential legal challenge.

“I went into this thinking that I would have a few supporters, but there’s been a barrage of support from our agents, from other schools… I have not had one negative response.”

Mayrseidl said she has also has a phone call from the Immigration department to say that Bowen had released a statement saying the changes would only effect a small number of students.

Mayrseidl is not impressed.

“Why it is okay to disadvantage even a small number of students if we can avoid it?”

“I think there is a definite agenda that is being pursued [against the training college sector] and a misconception out there that this is being done to ‘clean up’ our industry. But I don’t think that is necessary. There are a lot of reputable operators out there.”

Mayrseidl’s position is also supported by the Australian Council for Private Education and Training. Its chief executive Claire Field has claimed the Government had mislead the sector by “suggesting the changes were uniformly supported by industry and that the Government had consulted extensively to inform their decisions”.

The TAFE sector has also hit out at the changes, although they do have support from the university sector and industry powerhouse Navitas, which is Australia’s biggest international education provider.

Mayrseidl says Kelly Colleges is diversified enough that it will be able to withstand the impact of the changes, but says she, like many in the sector, has had enough of the constant changes.

“This is not just about us. This is about having clear goal posts and when they keep moving that the 11th hour.”

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