With steep fall in student visa applications in Australia, an apex body for private colleges here has asked the government to inject cash into overseas students’ funding as its tuition assurance scheme “was not built for a wholesale shake-up.”

“In the next 12 to 18 months, the whole consumer protection arrangement is going to be called on to do more heavy lifting than it has in its history,” Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) Chief Executive Andrew Smith was said as quoting by The Australian.

ACPET’s tuition assurance scheme, which aims to accommodate students with alternative providers in case a college fails or closes, “wasn’t built for a wholesale shake-up,” the report said.

In the last three months till September 30 this year, student visa approvals out of India declined to 6,804 as compared to 17,237 in the three months preceding it.

The reasons for the drop has been mainly due to crackdown on fraud, as well as tighter migration rules, bad publicity over a spate of assaults on Indian students and a rising Australian dollar, the report added.

A steep fall in student visa applications and approvals out of the Indian market is threatening the viability of colleges in this country.

Asked whether the ACPET was capable of handling the expected fallout, Mr. Smith said the body was adding resources to its scheme, but it was impossible to ascertain the strain which it would face.

The government should consider an immediate cash injection into the back-up Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) assurance fund that was financed by a levy on industry, he said.

“We need clarity on what the government is prepared to do to support the industry,” he added.

Regulatory crackdown on dodgy providers is expected to lead to enforced shutdowns.

In Victoria, the regulator is targeting 41 colleges for special audits, and according to one industry insider who did not want to be named, up to 25 may be shut down.

Australia’s Education Minister Julia Gillard had recently assured the education sector that the government stood behind the ESOS fund.