Cuts in the billions. Source: Shutterstock

It’s expensive and the quality’s been reported to be dropping.

Now, there’s another zinger set to hit Australia’s attractiveness as a study destination of choice for international students: Having to pass English language entrance exams to get into their preferred Australian universities and colleges.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced this today at an international education conference in Hobart, The Herald Sun reported.

“What we hear from universities, vocational education providers and from the regulator is that some students are slipping through the cracks,” Birmingham said.

“Some students simply don’t have the English language skills they need to succeed. It means they draw away from getting involved in lectures, tutorials and group study work while their classmates and teachers struggle to bridge the language divide.”

The new requirement, which will start on Jan 1, means more than 150,000 international students coming to Australia each year will have to undergo 20 hours weekly of face-to-face intensive teaching for non-English speakers.

They will then be tested on their proficiency, depending on their course. This ranges from academic writing to basic knowledge of the alphabet and sentences, according to The Australian.

Currently, many international students in Australia attend the English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students. However, they are not required to achieve any level before heading into their tertiary education courses. Students can either pass a course in Australia or overseas without proof and gain direct entry to university, according to SBS.

Birmingham said the test’s aim is to ensure students have the English language skills necessary “to participate, contribute and learn”.

“It’s clear we need more scrutiny in the system.”

While some sections of the industry lauded the move, Federation of Chinese Associations of ACT president Sam Wong felt the changes were too sweeping, given that it is based on allegedly anecdotal evidence.

“I think it is a little bit overburdening for examination. They have good and competency in English before they enter their first-year study of university,” Wong told SBS.

Journalism masters student Yi Wang, on the other hand, welcomed the move, saying it would encourage others to work harder on their English, which will benefit them in the long run, such as by settling in easier.

“If the test is harder, then we will study harder, for us the rest of living in Australia will be easier because we can speak fluent English and we can fit in in this place,” Wang said.

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