Why international student numbers are about to peak

The Australian Government’s latest official temporary visa data revealed that international student numbers hit an all-time high 613,000 in the year to March 2019:

The number of student visas on issue as at March 2019 were 77,000 (14%) higher than March 2018 and 285,000 (84%) higher than March 2013.

This growth has been driven by students from India and Nepal, whose number of commencing students ballooned by 50% and 28% respectively over the past year.

As noted last week, the pivot to India and Nepal suggests the international student bubble is about to burst. Students from these nations tend to study at lower quality (second tier) tertiary institutions or private colleges, often for the primary purpose of obtaining employment and future Australian permanent residency. These students are also overrepresented in cases of academic misconduct, plagiarism, and students failing their courses.

The fact that Australia’s universities have pivoted to these lower quality students is a sign that they are scrapping the proverbial ‘bottom of the barrel’ and compromising student quality for revenue.

To add insult to injury, competitor nations are ramping-up their efforts to attract international students which, other things equal, could divert students away from Australia.

For example, in April the Canadian Government announced plans to expand its presence overseas in a bid to significantly increase the volume of international students studying in Canada from 572,415 in 2018:

Officials from universities, colleges and the federal government are now in the early stages of developing an “aligned” strategy that will broaden campaigns in other parts of the world… in places with expanding economies and large populations of young people…

Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada, said… immigration policy changes in Canada have helped it compete with other countries in attracting the world’s increasingly mobile post-secondary students. The policies, she added, have sped up visa processing times, permitted foreign students to work in Canada while they study and improved a graduate’s chance of obtaining permanent residency.

Now, one of the leading candidates to become the new British Prime Minister, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, wants to aggressively lift the numbers of international students and migrants into the UK:

Sajid Javid has said he wants to see an end to tough rules on overseas students being allowed to stay in the UK to work, arguing for what he called a more “flexible, sensible attitude” to immigration…

“I want to see more international students come to our country,” Javid told an event in London organised by the thinktank British Future.

“If they’re coming here, studying in our great universities, if they want to work afterwards we should make it easier for them to stay and work… It makes no sense to send some of the brightest and most enterprising people in the world straight home after their time here”.

His announcement has been welcomed by Jo Johnson, the former universities minister who is seeking to amend the immigration bill to change the six-month limit back to its previous timeline of two years…

I don’t just mean economically, but I include that, and culturally, every way – if we didn’t have the approach to immigration we’ve had of successive governments over the last few decades.”

These expansion efforts overseas come at the same time as Australia’s largest international student market – China – is increasing investment in its own universities and lifting its standards, which should stem the flow of Chinese students arriving in Australia (other things equal).

As we keep saying, Australia has no natural advantage in university education. Instead, standards have been continuously lowered in order to grow international student numbers (and profits), including by going easy on language skills and passing underperforming students. Accordingly, the value of an Australian degree has been badly eroded in the international market-place, which should adversely effect international student numbers down the road.

In short, the volume of international students flowing into Australia’s universities are likely nearing its peak as competitor nations offer sweeter enticements in post-study work and residency, source countries improve their education standards, and Australian tertiary institutions lose their prestige value after lowering their standards.

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. The number of 18 year olds in China is already shrinking:

    21 Jan 2019

    There were 15.23 million births last year, down two million on the previous year, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics.


    2 May 2019

    A new study suggests the country’s populace may top out in about four years, earlier than expected. That’s disheartening for the likes of Mattel, Lego and education companies. But it also reflects a richer, better-educated nation.

    • So is the number of 18 year olds in India, births having peaked in the mid-90s.
      Even births in Nepal peaked around the year 2000, so they’re either at or just past peak 18 year old.

    • Your first sentence sums up why all the various ponzis (globally) are on borrowed time: peak population growth.

      – Who keeps house prices going up when the population is in decline?
      – Who pays for those state pensions when the taxpayer base is declining relative to the retirees?
      – Who services that vast Govt debt-berg when the taxpayer base is declining?

      Lol. We are so fvcked it beggars belief. And yet, so few can see it.

      • Who pays for those state pensions when the taxpayer base is declining relative to the retirees?

        Start bothering to tax the export of LNG like Qatar does. Deport the “skilled” foreigners when they retire like Dubai does instead of giving them Aussie passports. Put in a mansion tax like New York State has done. Raise the luxury car tax to 50% and put in a luxury yacht tax as well. Immediately exclude the rich from negative gearing handouts and novated leasing handouts. Exclude the rich from private school subsidies. Restrict negative gearing handouts to no more than 1 property per voter.

      • World of Japan… we will probably deal with it the same way.

        Anyway the Aussie population will continue to rise at 2% p/a even if we’re the last country in the world with a rising population.

  2. short, the volume of international students flowing into Australia’s universities are likely nearing its peak as competitor nations offer sweeter enticements in post-study work and residency, source countries improve their education standards,

    Sorry mate. But the supply of foreign students from poor countries who wish to migrate to the first world is practically unlimited.

    So even after the UK and Canada have had their fill, there will still be more than enough to inundate Australia. Every year.

    • THIS. The Government also want more entrants into the Private Higher Education space all owned and managed by foreogner’s who themsleves arrived here via the overseas student visa program.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Yes the numbers could be kept growing for generations to come.
      Populate or perish and all that.
      “They” could get Australia to a hundred mill on an expanded student visa programs alone!

    • Heywould JaBlowme

      Have to agree. Certainly the numbers of competent students likely to succeed and become highly skilled will wane and those serious ones will indeed be picked off as other countries expand in this space. So genuine students will wane, yes.

      But the cohort of essentially zero english, fake language certificates, eye on PR and permanently working in the cash/black economy in a low skill job and sending back whatever they can to family in India or Nepal is practically unlimited.

      So long as the Government grants PR to foreigners who can tick the following 4 boxes:
      – under 30
      – completion of ANY Aus tertiary degree
      – no currently active Leprosy or membership of a terrorist organisation
      – can pony up the visa fees

      those graphs are going to keep expanding.

    • Exactly, I’ve been in many very poor parts of China and India yet the one universal truth is that Tertiary education is your ticket out of this 5hit-hole. Today were only educating a small percentage of China’s aspirant poor, so as long as there’s a path forward for them, they’ll continue to come. They’ll continue to live in crowded inner city housing, they’ll continue to work for below award wages. and they’ll continue to pay for something that we label Tertiary education. Our Tertiary education sector knows that they’re onto a long term earner, they’re selling hopium, and it’ll remain as addictive as ever …this belief that something can be / is better is a very powerful force unfortunately for these students it is their parents that need to learn that the actual education they’re sending their kids to get is worthless…and btw that’s not the message that the kids send home (saving face etc)

  3. Stop it! You’re getting all excited. Surely the student boom cannot stop — imagine the consequences for GDP!!

    We’ll take anyone — literally anyone

    • You’re getting better at channeling the Moron side, mate. Your predictions are becoming increasingly accurate.