The international student bubble is about to burst

The Department of home affairs’ latest quarterly visa data showed that international student numbers hit a record high 613,000 in the year to March 2019, up 77,000 over the past year and 280,000 since March 2013:

However, the composition of students is clearly shifting away from China towards India and Nepal, according to official government data:

New federal government data shows that the total number of Chinese students commencing courses in the first semester of 2019 is only 1.5 per cent higher than last year.

This compares to growth of 7.4 per cent last year, and 17 to 19.8 per cent growth in the previous two years… [However] overall numbers continue to grow, driven by strong interest from India and Nepal.

More than 199,000 international students commenced courses in the first three months of this year (corresponding to the start of the first semester), 9.6 per cent higher than last year. The number of commencing Indian students rose by 50 per cent to nearly 29,000 and the number of Nepalese students was up 27.6 per cent to nearly 13,000.

The total number of international students enrolled in the March quarter this year was 640,000, 11.1 per cent up on the March quarter last year… In the year to March, education exports were worth $36.6bn, 15.4 per cent higher than the corresponding period a year earlier.

As regular readers know, Australia’s international student trade has to date been powered by China, whose 153,000 students in 2018 were more than double that of India (72,000) and roughly five times the numbers from Nepal (28,000):

As shown above, the average yield is also much higher for Chinese students ($72,000) than it is for students from India ($52,700) or Nepal ($56,600).

The reason is simple: Chinese students tend to pay higher fees to study at higher quality Group of Eight Universities. On the other hand, students sourced from India and Nepal generally study at cheaper second-tier institutions or private colleges, often for the primary purpose of gaining employment and future permanent residency in Australia.

For example, last year it was revealed that applicants from the Indian Sub-Continent were using state-based migration schemes in Tasmania and the ACT for backdoor permanent residency into Sydney and Melbourne:

During recent months and years, a large number of prospective permanent residents – particularly international students from the Indian subcontinent – moved to Tasmania and the ACT for a relatively easier pathway to permanent residency…

This rorting was particularly prevalent in Canberra, where large numbers of Indian students streamed into the ACT to study at private colleges for one year and to qualify for permanent residency:

In July last year the ACT government widened the criteria for those seeking to be nominated by the territory government for permanent residency…

“When the subclass 190 visa popped up, the students started streaming in,” Min Gurung, marketing and sales manager from JP International College, in Mawson said. The college experienced an increase of 300-400 students in the past year, with many students moving to the ACT with their partners and young families…

Unity College in Belconnen experienced an almost two-fold increase in its student numbers to about 50…

Some operators of the colleges are reluctant to speak out, with one reporting his institution had about 100 students before July last year. In the past year, that number grew to about 300 students…

It’s believed up to eight colleges have opened in the past year and more applications could be in the works…

Last month’s Four Corners report was especially critical of the quality of students arriving from the Indian sub-continent, reporting widespread cases of academic misconduct, plagiarism, and students failing their courses.

For example, maths lecturer and academic misconduct investigator, Dr Duncan Farrow, told Four Corners:

“I have just reviewed the results for students from the Punjab region in BSC100 Building Blocks for Science Students and it is depressing. Of the 52 students in this category, 12 have passed the unit outright — a pass rate of less than 25 per cent”.

Murdoch University’s Professor Benjamin Reilly expressed similar concerns:

“In semester one 2018 we experienced a surge in new international students into some postgraduate courses. This surge increased sharply in semester two 2018, with several hundred new students, mostly from the Punjab region of India, enrolling in a small number of postgraduate courses.

“While some were OK, many do not have the language skills to study at a postgraduate level and have thus been unable to participate in class or complete assessments for the units legitimately.

“Hence we now have a much larger number of academic misconduct issues, supplementary assessments and outright failures than we have previously experienced in the units in which this cohort has enrolled”…

In a similar vein, Inside Story’s Tim Colebatch warned that large numbers of Nepalese students are flocking to Australia on spurious grounds, and risk repeating the training visa scams experienced a decade ago:

…one source stands out: the little Himalayan country of Nepal, just thirty million people, living in one of Asia’s poorest countries…

Over the five years to mid 2018, one in every 500 Nepalis emigrated to Australia — and that’s in net terms, after deducting those who returned. In 2017–18, little Nepal became Australia’s third largest source of migrants after India and China…

Deregulation has allowed universities to selectively lower their standards to bring in more fee-paying foreign students, even when they fail to meet the thresholds for English language skills or academic achievement…

This is not the first time immigration from Nepal has surged. A decade ago, we saw a scam with training visas, in which “students” from India and Nepal came for training courses in Australia, then quickly vanished into the workforce. The scam saw net immigration set record levels in 2008–09, before then immigration minister Chris Evans shut it down. But most of those who came stayed on here.

As reported in last month’s Four Corners report, some universities have been admitting international students who are below the university’s own published English standards, as well as accepting “medium of instruction” (MOI) letters for postgraduate students from India and Nepal, which state that students previously studied in English.

Some of these students are undoubtedly gaining access to Australia via fraud, as implied by the 2015 ICAC investigation entitled “Managing corruption risks associated with international students”:

In the search for international students, some universities in NSW are entering markets where document fraud and cheating on English-language proficiency tests are known to exist. They are using large numbers of local intermediaries – sometimes more than 200 agents – to market to and recruit students, resulting in due diligence and control challenges…

False entry qualifications, cheating on English-language proficiency tests, essay mills selling assignments, plagiarism, cheating in university exams and paying others to sit exams are reportedly common.

The pressures within universities are also conductive to corruption.

It’s not hard to see why. Across Facebook there are many advertisements by unregulated Sub Continental education agents spruiking how they can assist prospective students to manipulate the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to gain entry into Australia’s universities (example below).

Given that Australia’s universities and private colleges are now scraping the bottom of the international student barrel, and bringing in lower quality (and lower paying) students from India and Nepal, surely this is a signal that the international student bubble is about to burst?

With Australia’s largest student source – China – topping-out, and increasing scrutiny on the sector following the Four Corners report, it’s only a matter of time before international student numbers begin to fall.

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Leith van Onselen
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  1. Another bubble blown by the globalists that is predicated upon the ‘gold rush’ mentality where boom and bust are built in to the program.

    Does anyone have a sneaking suspicion that foreign nations might be building and staffing their own universities that are beginning to move up the ranking? I mean – fast.

    And why will these rivers of education gold keep flowing once they have invested to meet domestic demand? Do the nincompoops who have built this ephemeral education bonanza really think that foreigners will keep paying top dollar for a foreign education that is being devalued like the Zimbabwean dollar? Is there an endless supply of cashed up people wanting degrees from Australian universities?

    It is fatally flawed logic because education can’t be an industry based upon en masse industry. Education implodes if it becomes a commodity.

    A degree at Oxford and MIT is worth something, because not everyone can get into Oxford and MIT. Neither do these institutions need to operate degree mills to make money. Instead they pay their way by developing new technology and knowledge. Remember that not often talked about benefit of universities? A degree from a good uni comes with the possibility that you might have acquired rare and valuable skills at a place where that sort of stuff happens.

    But just like the frigging house bubble, the idiots behind this new education bubble don’t seem to realise that a Ferrari has little value if every second person has one.

    There is something about that rush to the next pig trough that blinds those infected by the virus of neoliberalism. They are blinded by their own saliva but deaf to the consequences of killing the golden goose.

    The entire world has become a casino where people know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

  2. Just like housing bubbles, there always seems another way to keep kicking the can…until there isn’t.

    You haven’t yet mentioned the ‘scholarships’ many of these international students are receiving. The international students hear scholarship, but really it is universities unofficially reducing their fees. To officially reduce fees might send an unfortunate signal of reduced quality. Hah.
    Wait until we get government funded first visa buyer grants for international students to get their first Australian degree. Hopefully I am just joking. I think domestic students would be very unhappy to learn about the ~$10k scholarships international students are getting at some universities.

    • You haven’t yet mentioned the ‘scholarships’ many of these international students are receiving. The international students hear scholarship, but really it is universities unofficially reducing their fees. To officially reduce fees might send an unfortunate signal of reduced quality.

      You’re right. Based on my observation, in most institutions (especially second tier ones outside GO8) the use of “scholarships” as recruitment inducement has increased. The term now is so diluted that everybody can receive it which means it is just a discount as you said above. They thought that the scholarship term will stoke academic pride on the international student candidates and induce them to apply to their study programs. However, the students will soon realize that all of their cohorts receive such “discounts” anyway without any merit / criteria.

      The other bubble concern is the increasing trend of the international students being “missing” in the classroom since they may be busy working “cash in hand” to earn some money. Some good schools will at least report this visa rule violation to the Dept of Immigration and cancel the student’s enrolment and refund the fee, but dodgy ones will ignore the problem and keep the tuition fee till they graduate with dodgy diploma.

      • @deo unfortunately the industry lobbied the Federal Govt to not make it compulsory to monitor student attendance. The only performance they have to monitor is the student’s progression with the course and report that to the Dept of Home Affairs. Even if the student is expelled for not progressing with the course, they simply move to another private college and continue from there until they receive permanent residency.

      • McPaddyMEMBER

        Back in the day there wasn’t any need to do a check of attendance because a failure to apply yourself would be reflected in your results at end of semester. These days the dynamic is different I guess. And that says a lot.

      • @McPaddy correct, yes fabrication of coursework is systemic within the industry.

  3. “medium of instruction” (MOI) letters for postgraduate students from India and Nepal, which state that students previously studied in English.

    There should be no such thing. As I have been saying for years, every foreign “student” should be required to pass the English exam at an Aussie airport and deported via the next flight if they fail.

    We would be doing them a favour by deporting them promptly – they can go to Canada instead.

    That Canberra Times article is so typical of the globalist media. That one pretends that Romania and NZ are the biggest sources of immigration into AUS.

    The Atlantic is pretending that all illegal immigrants are doctors:

  4. Oh boy. If the international student bubble burst is as awful as the housing bubble burst, we’ll plummet to 2017-level foreign student enrolments.

    It will be absolute carnage.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Come back in 5 years to say the exact type of stuff about so and so bubble bursting!

  5. James navarro

    The great replacement taking place.
    We are being stuffed to the gills with d1versity

    • Why don’t they make everything online and outsource the lectures to call centers in India to operate 24/7? Think of how many more students they can enroll and the concomitant salary savings!!

  6. A good technique is for a recent graduate to marry a recent student arrival from the home country.

    The recent graduate gets a 2 year work visa and their new partner picks up spousal work rights.

    Boom ready to start working on the PR application.

    Saves the cost of finishing 2 degrees.

    Interviewed one of these recently.

  7. I guess that will be the end of the population ponzi the, given the student rort has become the main way of getting new people here.

  8. Jolly Trollop 2

    Now scrapping the bottom of the barrel with the Nepalese in massive numbers. Wont be long before they turn once again to the Sudanese and Somalis ….

  9. If we really want to do this, we should consider the geostrategic way to do it.

    Help our neighbours, not our geopolitical rivals.

    $ aint everything – especially if as someone says the money for the courses is mostly earned here.

  10. So these dubious students (rorting and plagerising) become dubious permanent residents.

    Do we then expect that they become upstanding residents and citizens, who follow the =laws, pay their taxes and not defraud the system?

  11. As someone who teaches in this sector I contest that they are lower skilled, my experience has been that Indian and Nepalese students have generally good English skills – so they are able to contribute more in the classroom – and thus they become a positive in the classroom as they bring their different perspectives and knowledge into the room. The fact that they are heading towards the second tier areas is also good news – these universities are suffering since caps were lifted at the major city universities.

    • So the consideration is economic, not academic? I suspect you’re not really a university professor at all.

      • Suspect I am not an academic – must be Fake News if you don’t agree? My point is that this is not a necessarily bad development. Personally I think the whole system is stuffed – if we cared about academic standards we would go back to a free, merit-based system, but in the context of today, I am simply arguing that my experience of Indian and Nepali students is that they are not of a ‘lesser standard’.

  12. The reliance on somewhere like Nepal – which can’t tolerate much higher numbers moving to Australia with its relatively small population and declining births – to drive suggests the international student scheme is in a dire situation. The numbers from China are irreplaceable from anywhere else in the world. If Nepal was to attempt to send the same numbers with their fertility level and declining trend, apart from destroying their economy, they would have no one to send in a generation or two.

    • If you look at Straya’s recent obsession with Big Straya in the context of a modern version of a scorched earth strategy….. it makes some sense – both Napal and India have been anti-Chinese. Then, loading up the continent with gangs of vibrants and jihadists has dual purpose – arm the local population on the one hand and make Straya less attractive for foreign invasion on the other hand.