THE federal government has been asked to consider pushing international students closer to the front of the immigration queue, sparking potential concerns of a re-emergence of the "visa factory" colleges that flourished under the Howard government's skilled migration policies.

The International Education Advisory Council, chaired by National Australia Bank chairman Michael Chaney, proposes a doubling of the bonus points available to would-be migrants with Australian qualifications.

The council's report, released yesterday, also suggests spending more of the foreign aid budget on education and giving international students equal access to hospital treatment and transport concessions.

Mr Chaney said international education, Australia's fourth-biggest export industry, was "on the cusp of embracing a changed global future". He said an "appropriate focus" on the report's 35 recommendations could help boost overseas student numbers by 30 per cent, to more than half a million by 2020.

Tertiary Education Minister Chris Bowen said he expected the government to accept most of the recommendations. He has already adopted the first two: a co-ordinating council of federal and state ministers and a five-year strategy for the industry.
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