Academics: We’ve lowered standards for international students

By Leith van Onselen

The Victorian Government yesterday called for a review of entry requirements into Australian universities after growing evidence has emerged that foreign students with poor English language proficiency are badly eroding education standards and placing undue strain on lecturers and university staff.

Today, academics have admitted that they are lowering teaching standards and passing failing international students in order to maintain the foreign student trade. From The Age:

“Once international student enrolment in our course surpassed 50 per cent, there was significant pressure to pass work which we would not have only a few years prior,” he said.

“Beyond the fact that no academic wants to fail a student, failing a significant proportion of a class reflects poorly on the teaching staff and the program”.

He is among more than 60 academics, tutors, students and parents who inundated The Age on Wednesday with their concerns about the inadequate English skills of some international students…

“We knew, and were consistently told, by university administrators that international students brought much needed revenue which was supporting our employment and research activities in a time of funding uncertainty,” he said…

Local students also raised concerns about having to complete group assignments with students who had little English.

Is anyone surprised by this? Australia’s universities have degenerated from “higher learning” to “higher earning”, as evidenced by the massive explosion in full fee-paying foreign students:

Australia’s education system has become an integral part of the immigration industry and the ‘Big Australia’ population ponzi – effectively a way for foreigners to buy backdoor permanent residency to Australia.

After all, the lobby group representing foreign students in Australia – the Council for International Students in Australia (CISA) – point blank admitted that students come here to migrate, not because of the quality of education on offer:

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…

It’s not like these concerns haven’t been raised before. Three recent Australian reports (here, here and here) have similarly raised the alarm about the flood of international students and the degradation of standards, but have been all but ignored and attacked by the rent-seeking Universities Australia.

Dr Cameron Murray – an economics lecturer at the University of Queensland – has also highlighted the problem in detail, which matches the academics’ experience above:

A thread on my experience:

1. 90% of students in my economics masters classes are international.
2. Half of them struggle with basic English
3. When I ask in tutorials why they are doing the degree, half tell me that they “need more points for their residency visa” (1/n)
4. They tell me they choose economics because they can do the maths but don’t need to understand anything or write anything.
5. I always set written essays or reports. Students tell me that they know other students are using paid ‘essay writing’ services to pass my class (2/n)
6. If half the class can’t understand English it brings down standards. It must—unless I fail half the class.
7. Think about the incentives—a casual lecturer who costs $25,000 fails 50 students paying $250,000. Change lecturer next year or reduce intake to keep standards? (3/n)
8. It is frustrating when top international students from foreign governments/central banks come to your class, then sit next to rich Chinese (almost always Chinese) who can’t understand a word and are there to buy a visa (4/n)
9. The evidence shows the effect on standards is real.
None of this is a secret. That research is from 2011. Here’s an article from 2014:
10. Unfortunately, this reality conflicts with the widely believed myth that our immigration program brings in “high skilled” workers.
11. 350,000 international students paying $25,000+ per year to study is $9billion being pumped through our top dozen universities. (6/n)
12. Halving the number of international students would keep all the good students, boost standards for all, and remove the visa scams.
13. But this would remove $4.5billion per year of revenue to the universities. (7/n)
14. In sum, universities are being degraded so they can be used as a back-door immigration program, and no one at the senior levels of universities or major political parties want to change it.
15. It is nearly career suicide for younger academics to say anything about it (8/8)

I forgot to add that almost every student I failed or called out for plagiarism got second and third chances until they passed. After the first chance it is taken out of my hands to higher ups at the faculty…

There is nothing new in this thread. did a big investigation a few years ago. Nothing changed AFAIK. People are just used to the new reality.

More here:  and here:

Let’s get real for a moment. Australia’s universities are little more than giant rent-seeking business, just like the superannuation industry.

Rather than clipping the ticket on the deluge of funds coming in via compulsory superannuation, the universities sector instead clips the ticket on the deluge of foreign students arriving in the hope of transitioning to permanent residency.

Instead of focusing on providing a high quality education and upskilling Australia’s population, the universities sector has become focussed on pushing through as many students as possible in order to maximise fees and profit. Again, this has parallels to the superannuation industry, whose focus is on maximising funds under management and fees, rather than achieving strong returns for members.

The end result has been the dumbing-down of standards and too many university graduates chasing too few professional jobs.

The main beneficiaries from Australia’s rent-seeking university system are the vice-chancellors, whose pay has exploded to an average of $1 million on the back of the student flood, at the same time as university students are stuck paying off expensive and increasingly worthless degrees, taxpayers are stuck writing-off unpayable debts, and the broader population is suffering under the never-ending population crush.

Policymakers must put a leash on the university sector, starting with removing the link between foreign students studying at university and gaining work visas and permanent residency. Let Australia’s universities compete on quality and value alone, not as a pathway to backdoor migration.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist
Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)


    • Its the path of least resistance – its much harder for people from the third world to meet first world standards, than it is for the first world to drop standards to third world levels. Thus global equality will eventually be achieved.

    • THIS!
      The International student fiasco has been going strong for at LEAST 10 years!
      It has probably become so prevalent that it can no longer be hidden or ignored.
      My guess is that it will take another 5 years at best, for anything to be done about this embarrassment.
      Meanwhile, Vice Chancellors are being paid better than ever and the marketing/public relations sections of Universities are being allocated disproportionate levels of funding and importance.

    • Just refuse. I went back an did a masters about in 2013/14. The majority of classes I was the only Australian/Native English speaker. Most subjects required group assignments, I told the lecturer or tutor that I refused to work with people that couldn’t speak English and would be a group of one.

      Tell them you have plenty of professional work experience and that you don’t need to learn how to work in a team. You’re there to learn technical skills and obtain a qualification that furthers a specific career goal.

      • Oh noice! Also prepare a full set of fireproof garments for you will now be tagged as a “dampener” (anti-vibrant) and may have to deal with it.

      • I did exactly the same thing. There was no resistance *at all* from the lecturers, who were actually very frustrated at being arm-twisted to look the other way when faced with brazen cheating and plagiarism. I ended up graduating top of the class.

    • My son is at a well known major university – he hates group assignments. To ensure a good mark for the assignment, he has to do ALL the work himself – the rest of the group are normally useless. He finds it an unfair burden.

      • Ino – I wouldn’t discount the vibrancy altogether. If the vibrant has suitable musical potential (say, something like Tokyo Ghetto Pvssy our Machine Gun Fellat!o) then sure, maybe bring that the vibrant along for the ride in the group assignment.

      • Sounds exactly like my Masters degree — I was the only English speaker and the assignments were all a dog’s breakfast. Thank God for exams (during which, by the way the cheating was off the dial). Most lecturers don’t give a stuff — they are acting in self-interest. They have mortgages and bills to pay and don’t want to rock the boat.

        As one of my fellow students opined: we’ve paid a fortune to do this degree — of course we’re all going to pass!

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Pick the hottest chinamen-like chicks and have them in your group, if you know what I’m saying. Trade. I’d almost go to university for this potential alone. I’d probably never want to leave!

      • wait.. what?! You like your chicks to look like men? Ooookay dude! Kind of a strange place to come out of the closet, but hey if the pressure was too big for you… we understand 😀

  1. So many similarities to Australian apartments flogged to Chinese. Australian universities are increasingly becoming substandard (just like it’s apartments). Chinese people are catching on to this.

      • @Dominic – no sarcasm. Take the red pill and wake up to reality. Australia has gone backwards massively in the last 20 years. It’s been masked by massively inflated property prices and a currency that’s massively overpriced due to the rest of the world believing that Australia is not only economically low risk but economically strong. The AUD price is based mostly on psychology, perception and propaganda fluffing originating from its central bank – not so much interest rates or CAD.

  2. I’m at one of the big universities and I can confirm this is true. I also teach high school from time to time and I would say the standard of work by year 9 students is at about the same level as my Chinese post grad students, if not higher.

  3. I was actually enrolled in Dr Murray’s Economics masters class, and I can 100% vouch for what he has said in the quote. Very few International students understood English, and it is such a shame that it has come to this.

  4. Disgusting.
    On group assignments, I can see two justifications: (i) lowering the marking load for staff; (ii) teaching people to work in teams. There was already a freeloader issue with group assignments, whereby the HD/D students didn’t want their average dropped, so they did the majority of the work anyway. Now if there are students who cannot actually contribute—so there is little to learn about teamwork—group assignments should be done away with entirely. But for (i)…

  5. There are plenty of local kids that are victims of the university degrees for all business model.
    For many from both a career and financial perspective they will never recover

    • If you’re a recent grad with a non-rubbish degree, then emigrate to the US on an E3 visa. Just never come back to Aus permanently and you’ve wiped off your HECS/HELP debt and you’ll be paid more in the USA.

    • Local kids are saddled with a lifetime of student debt for a substandard degree that provides no value to prospective employers. Its a scandal, and I’m amazed more Millennials are not raising hell about it. Its as if they truly don’t understand that they are sacrificing their own future wellbeing and financial security as a result of trying to uphold the mandatory open borders policy of the Left.

      • Most millennials are stupid. We saw that with Brexit.

        They are not in the job market but in “uni” and do not realise that they will miss out on jobs due to the mass importation of cheap third world labour.

      • For Millennials to question anything of actual importance is inconceivable.
        This is a generation that from infancy, has been programmed what to think.
        They have been coddled, spoonfed, distracted and entertained into becoming unquestioning and compliant consumers.

      • kiwikarynMEMBER

        I agree. And when they legalise marijuana, the Govt can complete the job on the rest of the population. When all the peasants are too stoned to care about anything, the Elites can do what they like.

      • Sort of a positive feedback loop, isn’t it… It takes an education (i.e. knowledge and the ability to think, not just job training) to analyse situations, come to counter-mainstream opinions, and be able to hold those opinions with robust thought and argument in the face of character attacks.

  6. From the table of universities, there is no surprise that the one with the highest proportion of international students also has the loudest big Australia advocates.

    • It’s no co-incidence that the biggest big Australian, Liz Allen, is a “demographer” at ANU, with the largest proportion of international “students”.

  7. Universities have become just like the superannuation, property, banking industries etc.. Totally entitled, conflicted & very loud. Every time I hear a VC crap on about how important their Uni is & how great they are at “exporting” services I want to punch a hole in the wall.

    • Whoever came up with the idea of positioning our erstwhile elite universities as part of the services export economy, as opposed to an investment in national human capital and contributors to the cultural development of the nation, deserves a place in the marketing hall of fame.

    • Australia is a rent-seeking soufflé economy that produces little of tradeable value (outside digging up dirt) and where assets have been pumped up by debt. Like a soufflé it is doomed to deflate and reveal the multiple decades of debt driven delusion.

      • Well said. Except the very thought frightens the bejesus out of me. Just imagine the social disintegration, crime etc that will accompany this reckoning.

        Maybe a dog-box on the 30th floor of some tower block isn’t the worst idea after all.

      • “Maybe a dog-box on the 30th floor of some tower block isn’t the worst idea after all.”

        When the time comes, they will make great platforms from which to jump from.

  8. Exempt Aussies from having to do group assignments – we did group assignments in high school, played basketball in a team, and worked in a team in a supermarket.

    Just give a lump sum $40k to every voter when they turn 18 – they can give it to a “uni” or spend it on something else. Let the “unis” fight for the $40k instead of being given it without any strings attached.

    Proof that most IT jobs are given to foreigners:

    What an absolute joke. There needs to be a massive tax on every work visa.

  9. Interesting reply’s re-group assignments
    I don’t have much local experience but I suspect the work place is no different
    One person does most of the real work (useful output) while the rest of the useless leaches attach themselves with super-glue and ride the gravy train to glory.
    i haven’t worked for many Aussie companies but this was certainly the norm when I was in the workforce.
    That’s something that you need to get used to, you definitely can’t outrun group incompetence and for most tasks you can’t actually do the job 100% of the job on your own
    In the end it falls on your shoulders to find useful ways to deploy available assets, personally I don’t have a problem with suggesting that I could sure use a Lewinsky, heck I’d even pay for the dry cleaning.

    • I’d be curious to hear from anyone who works in a large (private sector) organisation to see what the appetite is like to carry dead-weight. I’d imagine that tolerance of dead-weight at public sector level (particularly in the case of one of the minority groups, be it gender, race, sexuality etc) would be fairly high but I suspect it may be similar in the private sector these days too, what with ‘social responsibility’ being such a big deal among large businesses.

      • Yeah. It’s hard to fire anyone. You usually wait for them to move on themselves. Or wait til another restructuring/redundancy round (every 24-36 months) and use that opportunity to ship them off (big payout in hand)

    • There are credit hogs such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. Private firms go bankrupt all the time. Amazon started streaming videos in 2006 and Netflix started that in 2007. Blockbuster just sat there and went bankrupt.

      So you could argue that it does not matter if a private firm has credit hogs.

  10. “We knew, and were consistently told, by university administrators that international students brought much needed revenue which was supporting our employment and research activities in a time of funding uncertainty,” he said…

    So who/what is driving this “funding uncertainty”? What are the steps needed to remove this uncertainly?
    Why not return to having universities run along the lines that they were in Menzies day. Provide scholarships for bright but financially strapped entrants. Fund a university & TAFE system worthy of respect. Raise university entry standards and restore the reputation of the Universities as centres of academic excellence by ensuring that adequate and guaranteed funding for the medium term is provided. Bring back the Columbo Plan. Provide valued staff members with some security of tenure. Weed out the back-stabbers that the current management system encourages. Don’t allow foreign students a pathway to permanent residency unless they have skills that the country is lacking. Throw out HECS. Fund the CSIRO so that it can continue in its role as an incubator of scientific excellence. Throw out KPIs.

    Governments of all persuasions – time to get a grip.

  11. 672,000 foreign students & partners in Australia (across all visa categories) Dec 2018. 8% Yty growth.

    90% in Sydney & Melbourne.

    96% rent in private shared accommodation* (DHIA & SCC housing study) *code for migrant sublet bunkshare.

    Occupying some 140,000 ex Australian dwellings in this invariably foreign owned ex Australian dwelling now converted to migrant only / cash in hand / sublet bunkshare.

    Only 53,000 visa holders are doing what is considered genuine post grad international education, the rest on a scam doing English learning, VET or patently nonsense courses certificates & diplomas with no international recognition or very easily cheated low level degrees available for free online or in their home country.

    Long stay & very long stay – a stay of up to 9 years in visa churn & extension, before finally getting the PR is very common.

    75% or 505,000 working illegally (Syd Uni & UTS study)
    Fake ID, labor ring ABN, cash in hand, all that time.

    A 3.6% progression into a high income professional vocation, here or in their home country. (Migrant pathways report 2015, PC report 2016 foreign students low human capital value, not the right intake for PR)

    Yep, nearly 96% fail to ever be anything than a migrant guestworker who used a visa alibi to work illegally & secured a PR as an anchor for chain migration.
    Showing what a disgrace the foreign student visa racket is.

    Only here to work illegally, steal an Australian job.
    To occupy an Australian dwelling, to congest an Australian train or bus or drive one of their 170,000 cars congesting our road.
    Zero tracking, DHA has no idea where they are after immigration entry & the NSW SDRO doesn’t even bother to try & collect international drivers licences fines or tickets because of the extent of the name & address fraud.

    Oh, you say…. “but they are a $33 billion export”

    The Australian Education Deloitte propaganda piece.

    Nope, Go read the report in detail.

    That’s their ‘total economic activity’ at a treasury estimate of $49.5k economic activity each.
    They only bring in $2.4 billion in declared funds yearly & even that is heavily frauded (DHA & Aust

    They do earn $33 billion onshore – but largely in the blackmarket & they are the epi-centre of the vice economy. 75% work illegally, paying little or no tax.

    And all that $33 billion was EARNED HERE.
    So it is not an ‘export’.
    They only pay $8.2 billion in fees. (Deloitte)
    They pay $6 billion in cash in hand bunk share.
    (672,000 x $170 a week in bunk share)
    They pay $11 billion in food, phone travel & living expenses. (672,00” x $310 week)
    And they send out or xfer $6.8 billion in foreign agent procurer debt repayments & family remittances.
    (World bank 2017, Westen Union foreign xfer & remmitances Sources & Recipients report).

    So $2.4 billion in,
    $33 billion earned onshore, mostly illegally, no tax.
    And $6.8 billion goes out.

    They are poor. Third world low socio economic unskilled with many in heavy debt to the foreign agent procurer, recruiter or vice ring syndicate.
    Go look at the countries of origin, spend some time with them in their campus or college, try to teach a class.
    Or in the feeder intakes overseas, or with those foreign agent procurers & recruiters.
    What is coming in is not ‘exploited’.
    They queue up in their hundreds of thousands in China, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia etc & will pay large bribes for fake documents & health checks / agent fees etc to get into Australia and to work illegally.

    They come in with that debt, Fake funds and have the blackmarket & vice jobs all organized by the criminal syndicates & traffickers long before they arrive.

    They create at least a 500,000 person unemployment impact to Australia citizens & PR – which costs Australian taxpayers $9.2 billion.
    (We have 1.3 million Australian/PR as unemployed & 1.1 million seeking work)
    That cost alone is more than their entire ‘student fees’ paid.

    They lower wages for everyone else, especially our youth & mature unskilled (3.6% negative wages real impact loss in the last 4 year) so that’s a further tens of billions $ in impact to Australians.

    They contest & displace our lower socio economic Australians out of housing (Australian couple at $500 a week for a 2 bed unit versus 8 foreign students in bunks cash in hand paying $1,360 a week & only $500 declared) – go figure which one the new foreign owner of the Australian dwelling is going to choose.

    They helped create 116,000 Australian homeless & another 350,000 seeking affordable housing, that now costs the Australian taxpayer $4.2 billion.

    Their congestion creates crazy misguided public infrastructure projects (aka Sydney $4.5 billion light rail debacle based on transporting over 80,000 of them from their CBD slums to UNSW).

    None of which they pay for as they work illegally & don’t pay tax.

    They have massively degraded Australian education (fallen 10 places globally) and have denied Australian youth any chance at a quality affordable education.

    The university, colleges & institutes totally sold out Australia to act as visa alibi for these migrant guestworkers.
    Their courses & COE carefully designed to maximise the hours & conditions the migrant guestworkers can work both legally & illegally.

    There is nothing socially or economically beneficial about the Australian international education Industry.

    It’s an aberration globally, we have 11 to 16 times the number of foreign students per head of pop compares to most OECD countries.

    We allow work rights & then illegal working on a mass scale whereas only a few countries allow a foreign student work rights and they are very limited & controlled.

    We have no tracking, surveillance, controls and our appeals system is a joke that just allows another extension of 3 to 5 years (full work rights) and defies any attempt in having visa integrity or rules enforced.

    The Australian foreign student ‘industry’ is corrupted from top to the bottom.

    It needs a Royal Commission.

  12. Mike

    You nailed it.

    This is along the lines of my thoughts- export industry is one that brings money into Australia! Not one where income/ funds are derived in Australia to pay for a so-called export service. Such a con.

    Very interesting thought provoking stuff- now you go to jail! Bloody brilliant nevertheless.

    So disturbing that the millenials don’t seem to get it. They have certainly been indoctrinated from early- get ’em young and get ’em for life they say.

    • You have to admit that the Cultural Leftists/Marxists have done spectacularly well in indoctrinating the Millennials .. and most other Aussies for that matter.

    • Justin / all –
      The source of the ‘$33 billion international student industry export’ myth.

      I really wish macrobusiness or some other public forum would do a full exposé & critique of this, so that Australians know the truth.

      A 2015 farrago of lies & omissions / sponsored by the Australian Education Dept / Deloitte.
      The $33 billion figure comes from these lies that are then grown prorata each year to the growth of the foreign student numbers to now be a ‘ $33 billion’ or ‘36 billion export’.

      It actually describes the foreign student ‘economic activity’ but not their declared funds or their actual source of funds & income which is primarily working illegally in visa breach (75% or now 505,000 of the 672,000 foreign students & partners onshore are working illegally – Syd Uni & UTS studies & many other reports)

      Actual fee income? (Mode 2 onshore foreign students is the one to examine – the other modes are fractional) and all the rest like family visits & so on is larded up nonsense.

      The point is that the money to pay even those fees is EARNED HERE, as they only come in with under $2.4 billion in declared funds often rorted (DHA declared funds data)

      So mode 2 Fees : $4.7 billion – $5.7 billion back then, Page 74 footnote 24 hidden down the bottom) / now with growth of numbers est at $8.2 billion) matching to then the costs & profit taken in delivering the ‘service’.

      Plus they add in an arbitrary $8.7 billion human capital value (page 49) as they get the PR, but no mention that only 3.9% ever progress to a high income professional vocation (96% do not) & even the Productivity Commission found they were a low quality unskilled & unsuitable intake.

      And lots of other wild guesses & one side assumption with no cost or other impacts as offset to get to the wild claims of $18 billion positive economic contribution.

      Not one mention of the illegal work onshore being their primary / sole source of income, or the social & economic impact in Australian unemployment, lower wages, degrading Australian Education, congestion, housing contention & fraud / living illegally.

      No one mention of the $9.6 billion in Australian unemployment costs of the 505,000 jobs they steal or the tens of billions of lowered wages & other impacts. That alone far exceeding the ‘fee income’.

      Not one mention that the foreign students are the epi-centre of crime & the foreign run vice industry being willing participants in that trafficking.

      No mention of the $4.5 billion – now estimated at $6-7 billion of foreign remittances sent out by the foreign students in agent procurer debt repayments and back to their families. (World Bank 2017)z

      No mention of the cost impact to Australian youth in being denied an affordable quality education as the education sector prostitutes itself as a migrant visa alibi.

      No mention the vast bulk of foreign students are doing very low level easily cheated courses available in their home country or free online.
      They are not here for the education which has fallen 10 places & is a laughing stock globally, many are on ‘courses’ that don’t even any international recognition.

      GDP notes. If we brought in 670,000 bangladesh slum dwellers into Australia and 505,000 worked illegally 7 days a weeknight 70 hours at $7 a hour : $500 a week and they sent back $200 a week to Bangladesh – then that would also be a ‘$18 billion GDP activity boost’ as well despite the fact it would lower all of Australia’s GDap per Capita, lower wages for everyone, create mass unemployment & housing issues & be cash flow and totally negative economically.
      It’s exactly the same with the foreign students.

      Oh and it gets worse. Much worse.
      A modest goal of 1 million foreign students in the medium term by 2025 – with 8% yty growth it will be 1 million in 4 years.

      Why – if we took just 1% of the third world seeking a PR – citizenship in a western country via the education racket, we could take in 11 million foreign students….

      • Excellent work.

        I agree- the data needs to be scrutinised and questioned. Not all roses. Need the anecdotal evidence to follow the money trail. There are so many complicit participants in this gravy train. Just follow the money and find the truth.

        Maybe a dashboard with the numbers… and then implications for participants and general society…..who wins, who loses.

        I recall reading somewhere that the 18-30/35 year old age bracket will be the largest voting sector within the next 5 years. Somehow need to demonstrate and convince these individuals and then their grandparents (>65 y.o.) that they are being screwed big time.

  13. Yes indeed I do very reluctantly concede that they have done a very spectacular job with the propaganda indoctrination.

    Now just waiting (rather hoping) for that special moment when the penny belatedly drops and the revolt commences.

    ………I admit I may be waiting longer than I would like