International students are flocking to Canada at the expense of Australia due to uncertainty over visa rules and not because of the high Australian dollar, according to a major education company.
One of the biggest providers of English courses to overseas students, Navitas, says parents in China and Vietnam are confused by changes to Australia's visa rules and are now choosing to send their children to other english-speaking countries.
Navitas says student enrolments in Australia have fallen 14 per cent for the 2011 June/July semester, in line with "similar industry trends".
It comes as the federal government conducts a review of the student visa program.
Among other things, the review is looking at reducing visa assessment levels for Chinese and Indian applicants.
Navitas chief executive Rod Jones said parents, particularly in the lucrative Asian markets, were unsure about visa requirements and were now sending their children to Canada and to lesser extent, the United States.
"They don't understand what it all means," Mr Jones said.
"Canada has been an enormous beneficiary out of this. The numbers there have just gone out of control."
However, he predicts the Canadian government will tighten its visa policies for international students as Australia and the United Kingdom have done.
"They just can't absorb the demand," Mr Jones said.
Navitas reported a 20 per cent increase in full year profit on Tuesday despite a softening of demand for student enrolments.
The education provider has more than 8,500 international students on its Australian books and a total of 14,600 students worldwide.
It says instability caused by the federal election, changing government policy and the strong Australian dollar hit the English division in full year 2011.
But Mr Jones said the strong Australian dollar wasn't the "major impact".
Canada, which also had a relatively strong currency, was doing particularly well with international student numbers while the United Kingdom had experienced a downturn despite the weakness in the pound.
"The biggest things at play here are government policy," he said.
Anecdotal evidence from the Navitas' Asian operations shows China and Vietnam markets were the most worrying, Mr Jones says.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said the review of the student visa program will look at ways to better manage immigration risk in the student visa caseload and deter breaches and misuse of the program.
It would also consider the suitability of separate visas for different education sectors.
To date, the review has received two hundred submissions and is expected to release its findings in September.
Nexus Canada can assist you in the process of getting your study permit/visa to Canada.