About 12 universities have now temporarily stopped recruiting students from the states of Punjab and Haryana, said Ravi Lochan Singh, president of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India.
Edith Cowan University he said PIE News last week that she made this decision due to an increase in the number of visa refusals from these regions and because of concerns about the academic progress of students.
In a letter to Australia’s education minister, the AAERI said the “sudden” decision made it impossible for “potential and genuinely interested students” from these regions to apply.
The body said that assuming all students from Punjab and Haryana are “high risk” is “grossly unfair and discriminatory”.
“We find the frequent designation of several regions as red zone or advice to agents not to enroll any students from the above regions as biased and discourage the interest of genuine and good students from these regions,” the association wrote.
“Such arbitrary and adhoc decisions could demotivate students, agents and could reduce the excellent image of Australian education across [the] Indian student community.”
“Communication puts real students at a disadvantage simply because they are from certain areas in India.
AAERI has urged institutions to give all students a “fair go”.
“Most universities have to protect themselves, but they have to know that ‘now’ unknowingly, communications that disadvantage genuine students simply because they come from certain regions in India are discriminatory,” Lochan Singh told The PIE.
Last year, Australia’s immigration department feared an increase in fraudulent applications from these regions, but the DHA denied AAERI was advising universities to suspend recruitment.
AAERI expressed broader concerns about discrimination, noting that one Australian university does not accept applications from Indian students who are married.
In its letter to the government, the organization also called for a review of the actual temporary entry requirement in visa applications – a call made by several institutions in parliamentary inquiry to Australia’s international education sector.
The protocol means immigration officials are likely to turn away students they believe could stay in Australia after completing their studies, despite Australia encouraging young people to come to the country after studying.
AAERI said it should be revised to “ensure an easy and simpler implementation process” that would simplify applications and speed up adoption.
University Australia chief executive Peter Chesworth said: “Australian universities are in regular contact with the government regarding visa processing and respond accordingly to intelligence provided by the Department of Home Affairs.
“The sector is committed to ensuring that visa processes are as thorough and robust as possible to maintain the integrity of our systems.”
It comes as Australia strengthens ties with India through a new agreement on the recognition of qualifications which will make student mobility between the two countries more efficient. Deakin University has also announced plans start a branch campus in the country.
Australia’s student permit rate for overseas Indian students was 81% in January 2023 in the higher education sector, according to Home Affairs data.