Aussie universities defend international student rorting

Last week’s Four Corners special on Australia’s international student trade featured Murdoch University, which was accused of badly lowering its standards in order to lift its international students numbers by 92% between 2017 and 2018, resulting in increased incidences of plagiarism, academic misconduct, and rising failure rates.

Following the report’s airing, domestic students responded angrily, accusing Murdoch University’s administrators of “dumbing down” courses and devaluing their degrees in the pursuit of profit:

Murdoch students and other staff said they had experienced their own “dumbing down” of course units to accommodate international students…

“How can you trust graduates who have come out of a uni that doesn’t pay attention to English and admission requirements?” [one disgruntled student said]…

“Fee-paying international students should pass the requirements listed for all entrants to the university and not be the ‘cash cow’ it currently has become [one former scholar said].

Over the weekend, Murdoch University defended its actions, emailing students stating that it is “proud to be a global university”, while also denying any wrongdoing:

“I want you to know that, as a university, we refute the claims made by the ABC. I understand the concerns some of you have raised and I want to assure you that an education from Murdoch is highly valued…

“We are committed to you and your education. We want you to succeed and be proud of being a Murdoch student and a member of our future alumni. I am proud that Murdoch is a global university. This is a principle embedded in our very foundations…

“I truly believe that a diversity of backgrounds and nations is a good thing. Having students from around the world at Murdoch plays a valuable role in campus life, enriching the learning and experience of university for all of us.”

By contrast, the University of Tasmania (UTAS), which also featured in the Four Corners’ report, is more contrite, announcing that it will tighten English-language requirements and launching a review into admissions practices for international students:

The report revealed that UTAS admissions staff were using medium of instruction letters as a way of determining a students’ English skill.

Medium of instruction letters are used as part of a Visa application but admissions staff have used the letters as evidence of English skill levels and did not follow through with UTAS own standards, which includes English language tests and a written exam.

Since the report aired, UTAS vice chancellor Rufus Black announced the practice would cease immediately and launched a review into admissions practices for international students…

“In the past we have pursued growth in international students as we sought to lift numbers to something approaching the lower end of the national average,” Professor Black said on Monday.

“However, since the release of our strategic directions paper, continuous growth in this area is no longer part of our future.”

The scandals uncovered in Four Corners’ latest report are nothing new. In 2015, Four Corners aired a similar investigation, entitled “Degrees of Deception”, which also uncovered widespread academic misconduct and degraded education standards.

Since that 2015 Four Corners report aired, international student numbers have ballooned by 60% to around half-a-million:

And during this time, a conga line of reports from other sources have similarly raised the alarm about the deleterious impacts from the explosion of international student numbers (e.g. here, here, here, here and here).

The major parties’ deafly silence in the wake of last week’s Four Corners expose suggests there is little political appetite to address the international student issue. Neither side has announced the common-sense solution of holding a warts-and-all review of the tertiary education sector by the Productivity Commission, in order to ascertain the true costs and benefits of the international student trade.

Our vice chancellors and senior university administrators are acting like bank executives, claiming there is nothing to see and that they are self-regulating their institutions in the best interests of their students and educational standards, while also delivering Australia $32 billion in purported education exports.

But as we’ve seen, many of their staff at the coal face and many students are telling a very different story. And the myriad of costs from lowering education standards, flooding Australia’s labour market with cheap exploitative labour, and crush-loading Australia’s cities, continues to be ignored entirely.

[email protected]

Leith van Onselen
Latest posts by Leith van Onselen (see all)


  1. The ‘Great Australian International Student industry $32 billion ‘Export’ Myth” exposed.

    And the actual numbers of all foreign students & partners on secondary visas that enter on number of visa categories on the ‘foreign student education’ pretext.

    The oft repeated claim:
    “The number of student visas has increased with the booming international student export industry in Australia, now worth an estimated $32 billion*.”

    *The original source being a Deloitte Access Economics study commissioned by the Australian Education & International Students lobbyists.

    ➡️It’s $32 billion of ‘economic activity’.
    That is true.

    But they are not a $32 billion ‘Export’ industry.

    The original source.
    A 2015 Deloitte Access Economics Report paid for by the Department of Australian Education. Pure paid off propaganda.

    The ‘export $$ number’ has then been prorated from those 2015 numbers by the growth in foreign student numbers to now be a ‘ $32 billion export’.

    Original source – Deloitte 2015.

    Key takeaway.
    The report misleadingly describes the foreign student ‘economic activity’ as a ‘services export’ but it is one sided, not exposing their declared funds or actual source of income (which is primarily working illegally) or the foreign student wider social & economic cost impact to Australians.

    March 2018: 672,000 foreign students & partner across all visa categories.
    These include international student & secondary partners, post graduate & partners*, special visas, and DFAT scholarships & education visas. ‘*Partners enter on a secondary visa with full work rights and no English test. All visa categories are heavily frauded in entry and funds.

    By visa groups.
    March 2018 International student 536,000
    March 2018 Graduate 65,000
    March 2018 DFAT / Other 12,000
    March 2018 ‘partners’ secondary visa 59,000
    Total = > 672,000

    Fact check.
    The sources to check this include VisaSure, DHA/ABF & Australian Education gov snapshots websites.
    This VisaSure link gives a simple summary & at bottom further links to the DHA detailed data.

    Last year growth rate 5.7% (DHA quarterly report)
    ➡️ March 2019 Foreign Students & partners across all visa categories = 714,000

    During 2018-2019 there has been a 5.7% growth rate (DHA or Dept of Home Affairs quarterly reports). It could be higher as the DHA statistics lag by up to 9 months.

    March 2019: 712,000 foreign students & partners onshore is a very conservative estimate…

    Their actual fee income paid?
    $8.2 billion Mode 2 onshore foreign students in the report, the other modes are fractional. And all the rest of the ‘economic value’ like family visits & so on added on again without cost impacts.

    See report in link Mode 2 Fees : $4.7 billion – $5.7 billion then, Page 74 footnote 24 hidden down the bottom) / And now with growth of numbers est at $8.2 billion) are matched to the costs & profit taken by providers in delivering the ‘education service’.

    Cross check on those foreign student funds & offshore sources of income.
    This is the only real ‘import’ of money to spend here to claim as payment of an ‘exported education service’

    It turns out the money to pay even the primary applicant student fees is EARNED HERE.
    The foreign students come in with under $2.4 billion in declared funds, often rorted (DHA Declared Funds Report 2017) so what’s happening is that’s just enough to pay that new entire intake first semester fees. The rest is never checked, or borrowed from an agent procurer loan debt & fee or via a paid ‘uncle sponsor’ – the money only in the bank account long enough to get the visa, then whisked out again.

    And all the rest of the money earned here.

    Many are in agent procurer loan debt, even for just those first semester fees.

    The test being that if all foreign students funds had to be declared, all fees for the 4 year course paid upfront, plus government held bonds or monitored accounts on funds their 4 visa years living expenses of $28k a year as per most country intake rules (eg China) – then almost immediately 95% of our current intake would fail that criteria.

    Human capital value.
    Deloitte adds on a very arbitrary $8.7 billion human capital value (page 49) as they get the PR etc. What they fail to mention is that only 3.9% of the foreign students ever progress to a high income professional vocation (2015 A Decade On Migrant Pathways Report).
    So 96% of foreign students & partners DO NOT achieve a high income professional vocation in Australia (as a PR) or back on their home country.

    Cross check.
    The later Productivity Commission Report also found that foreign students were a very low quality unskilled & unsuitable PR intake.
    They rated them as negative human capital value compared to a more desirable highly skilled & proven human capital value intake.
    Their overall summary is that the vast bulk of foreign students are from third world countries, unskilled, not particularly young (many 30 year old adult) -and are doing very low level courses, so not a good PR intake.

    And we know that there is systemic fraud, easily cheated courses, manufactured ‘Education & courses that are readily available in their home country (often high school level in that country, but here dressed up as a certificate or diploma with no international recognition. And much of the ‘education’ is even free online globally.

    The overall view is that the foreign students are not here for the ‘education’ but to work illegally, to snag a PR, to be an anchor for chain migration, and many come in with significant foreign agent procurer debt, reinforcing their intention to work illegally in visa breach.

    The biggest issue however in the Deloitte report is their total failure to quantify the economic & social impact of the foreign student industry to Australians.

    Impacts for example that have now degraded Australian Education sector (fallen 10 places globally), created mass congestion, housing contention, and allowed almost 3/4 of a million foreign students to enter, live & work illegally, with large scale visa fraud and breach of their visa conditions & COE.

    Here are the details missing in the Deloitte Report by Economic & Social category:

    It uses the March 2018 672,000 foreign student & partner number, even tho this has now increased to 712,000.

    🔻1. Job theft & lowered wages for Australians.
    75% of the 672,000 (2018 number) foreign students work illegally (Syd Uni & UTS studies), so that’s 505,000 in visa breach stealing over 505,000 Australians jobs, & lowering wages for all other Australians.

    Those 505,000 Australian unemployed cost $9.6 billion in Australian tax funded unemployment benefit costs.

    That alone exceeds the entire foreign student fee income (and of which most of which is earned here illegally).

    So on just one simple measure, the entire foreign student industry is economically negative (fees paid v illegal work & Australians unemployment impact)

    🔻2. Australian Wages Impact.
    The evidence is that the foreign students and the wider Temporary Resident group lower wages for all Australians in both the race to the bottom in wages paid, illegal work and casualisation of employment – costing tens of billions in Australian direct wages loss, loss of permanent jobs & plus taxation loss or avoidance.

    The estimate is that they lower all Australian wages by 6.7% or $48 billion, and the indirect tax loss (from no wages growth for all Australians, so less tax paid at what would be a higher rate) – that’s a hard loss taxation impact of $16.3 billion.

    🔻3. Australian Housing Impact.
    The report is silent on the fact that the foreign students & partners are long stay to very long stay (4 to 9 years is common in COE & visa extension & churn).

    The report is also silent on the fact that the 672,000 foreign students & partners occupy at least 134,000 ex Australian dwellings at say 5 per dwelling.

    They don’t mention the concentration but that is 91% or 603,000 foreign students in just Sydney or Melbourne.

    96% of 91% of foreign students & partners rent in ‘private shared accommodation’
    (DHIA & SCC housing studies) as the Universities & colleges only provide a tiny fraction (under 3%) of Sydney or Melbourne accommodation & its high cost. Far less affordable than foreign owned & run high density cram bunk share subletting.

    At an average of $180 a week each being the widely advertised market rent in Sydney for bunkshare – that’s $6.3 billion cash rent paid, but only $3 billion in what is ‘legal occupancy’ rent able to be declared, so $3.3 billion taken as cash plus negative gearing claims of another $0.5 billion.
    Plus add on the contention / rent impacts on Australian renters of at least another $3 billion negative.
    $6 -8 billion negative.

    Plus 116,000 Australian homeless & 360,000 Australians seeking affordable housing or on housing assistance costing the Australian taxpayer $3.7 billion.

    So at least $10 billion negative impact.

    🔻4. Congestion / public infrastructure.
    The foreign students drive some 108,000 cars on international licences (RMS/Vic Roads).
    Their fines are not even collected by NSW SDRO as it’s so heavily frauded in identity fraud. No registration, checks on identity or location or address systems are in place, or links to immigration & law enforcement.

    They heavily congest our trains & public transport. As anyone can attest to. Sparking massive infrastructure projects such as Sydney Light Rail ($4 billion) that they will never pay for.
    Tens of billions lost.

    🔻5. Environmental impact.
    There is also no mention of power or water usage impact, 300,000 foreign students & partners in just Sydney alone – the Desal plant, emissions impact & all the other folly of mass concentration – costing the Australian taxpayer even billions more.

    🔻6. Visa breach/criminal activity.
    No mention that the foreign student industry is the epi-centre of crime & the foreign run vice industry, willing participants trafficked in on a student alibi, or resorting to that as their main income onshore.

    No mention of the foreign student used as ‘mules’ in mass scale foreign criminal money laundering.

    No mention of the tens billions of dirty money washed in by the foreign criminal syndicates to buy those modest Australian established dwellings via a PR proxy for the rivers of untaxed cash in migrant subletting, vice & crime.

    No mention of the Foreign students queued up at Xwing to launder back their debt repayments & remittances offshore – some $5.3 billion flowing out from their $31 billion illegally earned here.

    7. Impact to Australian Education.
    No mention of the cost & social impact to Australian youth now denied an affordable quality education, as the education sector prostitutes itself as a migrant visa alibi.
    Tens of billions in immediate & long term impact to Australians.

    And it only gets worse.
    A ‘modest’ goal of 1 million foreign students in the medium term. (next 5 years)

    Deloitte Report prepared for Austrade.
    It’s a shocker.


    In summary.

    The foreign student Industry may be a $32 billion ‘yearly GDP activity’ in March 2018.

    But it is NOT an ‘Export’ at all, none of it.

    In is a massively corrupted, economically & socially negative program.

    At a very minimum $17 billion negative.
    Up to $26 billion negative.

    Each and every foreign student & their ‘partner’ – in any simple measure is at least negative $25k each in their individual economic & social impact.

    And that is just one set of our TR visa categories that are totally corrupted.

    The wider crisis.
    We had 2.431 million temporary residents in Australia in March 2018.

    Fact check / source.

    It has grown subsequently by 130,000 net new TR or 5.3% to now 2,561,000 as of March 2019.
    (The DHA website & quarterly tables at the bottom of the VSure page)

    2.3 million or 89% of the Temporary Resident visa holders are concentrated in Sydney & Melbourne (ABS)

    🔹Sydney pop 5.2 million.
    🔻1.3 million Temporary Residents.
    ◽️1 in 4 people.

    🔹Melbourne pop 5.0 million.
    🔻1.05 million Temporary Residents.
    ◽️1 in 5 people.

    We need a Royal Commission into our totally broken & corrupted Temporary Resident Visa system.

    And what better place to start that the fraudulent, corrupt, economically & socially damaging ‘international student industry’

    • Thanks mike. Very detailed.

      I’d just simplify to say that basically the foreign students give each other $32b worth of blow jobs, and we count that as export services. Because we are stupid.

      • Wow. That’s pretty surreal stuff. They actually state:

        Arguing that universities should restrict students based on their level of English proficiency continues a long history in Australia of racial exclusion under the guise of policing ‘language’.

        So it’s racist to expect students at universities in an English speaking country to speak English. This seems to ignore the point that if the lecturer speaks English and the class all speak Hindi then not much learning will happen.

        This sort of insane SJW hooting should disqualify these people from ever standing in front of a classroom. They’re too short for the ride.

  2. I guess that is why most graduates are required to sit psychometric tests when making the short list for jobs once they graduate – where verbal reasoning is tested along with spatial reasoning and mathematical capability. Just because you have a Uni qualification does not mean that you are any good. I would argue that some students spend far too much time and money at Uni – get the basic qualification, get out there, get the experience. If you want higher studies, do this part time while working… I did my Masters while working full time. Best decision I ever made… rather than rack up more debt at Uni back in the 1990s.