Foreign students lobby admits they are here for immigration

By Leith van Onselen

The lobby group representing foreign students in Australia – the Council for International Students in Australia (CISA) – has warned that a tougher stance on immigration from a Peter Dutton led Government could jeopardise Australia’s tertiary education exports. From The AFR:

The Council for International Students in Australia said foreign potential students were attracted to Australia by the possibility of migrating here.

But Mr Dutton’s strong views on border policy and his statement that Australia should reduce its intake of migrants “where we believe it is in our national interest” would tip the balance for some would-be students…

The national president of CISA, Bijay Sapkota, said… “For people coming from low socio-economic backgrounds there has to be a value proposition. If they go home they will not get value. So there has to be a possibility of immigration.”

He said international students were not satisfied with the way Mr Dutton had run the immigration portfolio, where some visas were at risk of being closed down at any time…

The reality is that Australia’s education system has become an integral part of the immigration industry – effectively a way for foreigners to buy backdoor permanent residency to Australia.

Dr Jenny Stewart, Honorary Professor of Public Policy at the University of New South Wales, drew the direct link between permanent residency and foreign student demand in her excellent article Hooked on Students:

If you work in a university, you cannot help but be aware of the extent to which universities are dependent upon income from international undergraduate students. Many of us working in the sector realised that it was not for any intellectual brilliance on our part that the students came, but because for many, coming to Australia as a student was a significant step on the path to becoming an Australian resident…

What do these undergraduate students do once they have completed their qualification? Many, understandably, wish to remain in Australia…

With appropriate advice and support and the necessary persistence, it would seem to be possible for just about any international student who is a graduate of an Australian university to become, eventually, a permanent resident…

In addition to creating competition for jobs at the entry level of the market, the boom in international students, particularly from China, is also having a deleterious impact on housing affordability, thus dealing a double-blow to Australia’s youth:

International students are also partly behind the ballooning in bridging visas, which have blown-out by 40,000 over the past year, as well as by 90,000 since 2014:

Earlier this month, it was revealed that foreign students have been ‘gaming’ Australian immigration system by appealing their decisions en masse to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to extend their stay:

The number of outstanding student visa refusal cases before the tribunal at the end of May totalled 8603. This compared with 4394 active cases at the end of June 2017 — an increase of more than 95 per cent in a little under a year. The 8603 active student visa refusal cases represented 30 per cent of all active migration cases…

Victorian Liberal MP Jason Wood, the chair of the joint standing committee on migration, said the backlog of cases at the AAT was “outrageous” and argued that the appeals process was “working in favour of the visa holder and not necessarily the Australian taxpayer”. He said foreign students could game the system to extend their stay by several years — an outcome which he said would deny Australian citizens more part time jobs.

Australia needs to switch the education sector from residency exports to high quality pedagogical exports.

If permanent migration is capped, and appeals processes tightened, many more students will leave once they finish their courses, relieving population pressures.

The economy will adjust quickly with lower house prices and a lower Australian dollar. Thus the students will still come in droves for the value offered in an Australian degree but without being so detrimental to wages, house prices and crush-loaded public services.

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