Over 10,000 Nepalese students may say goodbye to their Australian dreams

By Ram Khatry I 13 June 2019

As many as 10,000 Nepalese students may potentially bid farewell to their dreams of studying in Australia after the Government of Nepal decided to stop issuing No Objection Letter (NOC) to students seeking vocational education in foreign countries.

Nepal is Australia’s third largest supplier of international students pumping $1.6 billion into the Australian economy last financial year.

The latest decision of the ministry does not affect students aspiring to pursue university level education such as bachelor’s and master’s degrees, senior Nepalese government official Maheshwor Sharma told southasia.com.au today. The Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology suggested that the decision is targeted at students who leave the country without completing their +2 School examination.

Data from the Department of Home Affairs gives an indicative picture of just how many Australia-aspirants in the Himalayan nation will potentially be affected, better still, just how many potential international students Australia stands to lose from this change.

In the financial year 2016/17, only 2931 Nepalese citizens (including their partners) were granted student visa to pursue various vocational courses in Australia.

The figure rose to 7,417 in the following financial year – an increase of over 150 percent.

In the current financial year however, the number of visa grants for Nepalese students in the Vocational Education and Training Sector has already reached 9,045 (including partners) in the first ten months alone (1 July 2018 to 30 April 2019). Thus, the total number would obviously have crossed the 10,000 mark by the time financial year 2018/19 finishes at the end of this month.

According to Mr Sharma, the changes to the NOC policy was made in accordance with the Nepalese law that allows its citizens to go to a foreign country only for “higher education” courses – not vocational courses.

In response to a question on whether or not Nepal regards Australian diploma courses as “higher education”, the Nepalese education official clarified that it could only be determined by the Curriculum Development Centre.

Dipak Khanal, who runs Hamro Institute of Business Technology off Bondi Junction in Sydney, laughed at the way the Nepaelse authorities has underestimated the VET sector.

“Of all the sectors, VET is the only area that can produce an workforce an underdeveloped country like Nepal needs for its development. What would tens of thousands of students with higher university degrees do in Nepal? Where are the opportunities to absorb them?” Mr Khanal asked. According to him, most Nepalese students cannot even afford to pay the tens of thousands of fees that Australian university courses cost creating huge mental and financial pressure on them which, he pointed out, leads to eventual drop outs.

Parshu Ram Adhikari, the president of Australian Education Consultants Alliance, has termed the Nepalese government’s decision as “unfair”.

This is a totally unfair decision. They should have taken suggestions from all stakeholders before taking such a decision,” Mr Adhikari remarked. He expressed hope that the Nepalese government would rethink its decision “very shortly”.

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