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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2770

Senator ROBERTSON —I direct my question to the Minister for Education. It has been reported that overseas students wishing to attend the University College of the Northern Territory have been denied visas. If this is a fact, will the Minister explain why the Government has taken this action?

Senator RYAN —I saw some newspaper reports to that effect. It is certainly not the case that the Government has made any decisions on visas relating to students who wish to enrol at the University College that the Northern Territory Government is establishing. I should point out that the decision of the Northern Territory Government to proceed with the establishment of this college on its own terms has some serious consequences for the education of Territorians and it raises a number of policy issues including the entry of overseas students. Those issues are being addressed. We have not made any decision to deny visas to overseas students.

I have decided that, as a Territory funded education establishment, the college will be regarded in the same way as a technical and further education college or a government secondary school for the purposes of accepting full costs of overseas students. That is, the relevant Territory authority will be required to notify the Overseas Student Office of the courses it intends to offer to students and the Office will register those courses. The fact that that process has not yet occurred may have led to some potential students making inquiries at overseas posts being advised by immigration officials that visas could not be issued.

The registration process is a safeguard against non-bona fide students claiming enrolment in courses or at institutions which do not have the appropriate degree of government recognition. Our Government has expressed its commitment in several ways to the orderly development of the export of education services, to the mutual benefit of Australian and overseas students. We do not intend to thwart entrepreneurial enterprise on the part of institutions where this does not impinge on other aspects of government policy. The University College in Darwin has been informed about these arrangements. As soon as the Overseas Student Office has been notified of the courses the Territory authority intends to be offered by this college, the courses will be registered and the visa application procedures can occur in the normal way.