Indians drive surge in international student arrivals

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Friday released its short-term arrivals and departures figures for May, which revealed that annual international student arrivals rose to 608,800 – up 34,100 (6%) over the year and the second highest arrivals in history:

According to the Department of Home Affairs’ latest “Student visa and Temporary Graduate visa program report”, this rise in international students has been driven overwhelmingly by Indians and to a lesser extent students from Nepal.

As shown in the next table, the total number of international student visa applications granted rose by 10.2% in the second half of 2018, driven by a 53.5% surge from India and a 47.8% increase from Nepal:

Moreover, the total number of Indian students in Australia is fast catching up with those from China:

As at 31 December 2018, there were 433,624 student visa holders in Australia, with China in the lead at 81,592, followed closely by India (76,624) and then Nepal (49,737):

Finally, Indian international students are often perceived to study in Australia for the primary purpose of gaining backdoor permanent residency, as explained by Dr Bob Birrell from the Australian Population Research Institute:

Dr Bob Birrell said some interstate universities with “shopfronts” in Melbourne were ­offering cheap business and IT courses that provided minimum accreditation for a skilled visa application…

Dr Birrell said students who finished their degrees here could then apply for another student visa, the 485 visa, allowing them to stay and work in Australia for two more years.

“It has little to do with the excellence of the education that’s offered here,” he said. “It seems to be effectively selling access to jobs and ­permanent residence.”

The visa data from the Department of Home Affairs supports this contention with Indians dominating Temporary Graduate (485) visas, which allows the applicant to remain in Australia for an additional 18 months to get prepared for a permanent visa under General Skilled Migration:

As you can see, Indian’s accounted for just under one third of 485 visas granted in 2018-19, which comes after experiencing explosive growth of 27.4% from 2017-18. Nepal also experienced explosive growth of 23.5%; albeit from a smaller base.

Clearly, Australia’s higher education sector has pivoted hard toward India and Nepal, which is reflected by the increasing concerns around degraded education standards and quality.

Unconventional Economist


  1. Sure why not we sell everything else why not permanent residency.

    The lib Democrats had the right idea. Permanent residency shoukd sell for 100k each with no right to welfare. Citizenship after 5 years with no crime record.
    Instead we give it away for literally nothing

    • RecessionImminent

      I’m worried about what we’ll do to obtain this fine human capital/FHBs when the US implements open borders. Perhaps a free car with every PR?

      • with the faster pathway to PR in place for Chinese and Indian students I don’t think very many real students from China and India would be considering postgraduate studies in Australia
        to genuine postgraduates, US offers, teaching/research jobs (most get offered teaching or research positions that pay living wage and tuition), low cost of living (most of best US universities are in small cheap towns/cities), and one year visa to find a job after completed studies
        but we’ll get more of those non-genuine “students” who just want money and/or PR

    • If it’s in the Guardian it’s all true and the people who conducted survey did not have an agenda (I swear!)

      • Nathan and Ginger,

        Which bits require refuting?

        “…Over the last few years there has been vocal opposition to temporary migration on the grounds that the system undermines the wage growth of Australian workers. While this report cannot definitively say if wage or occupational degradation occurs in specific occupations and indus-tries, the analysis shows that in aggregate immigration has not harmed Australian workers….”

        “…The data challenge
        The nature of temporary migration presents important challenges for data collection and analysis. Temporary migrants often do not stay in Australia for very long and can fall through the cracks of the regular surveys administered by statistical agencies. And, in instances where temporary migrants are surveyed, they are often not asked specific questions about the visa they arrived on or the visa they are currently on (which may not be the same thing). Further compounding these challenges, is the fact that access to data on temporary migrants is restricted and difficult to obtain, making program evaluation challenging. Some research has relied on administrative data, but this is not readily available to researchers outside of the public sector.2 This forces researchers to adopt imperfect approaches to evaluating the program including making key assumptions about the current visa status of migrants…”

      • I have not read it yet, just thanked Nathan for raising it. Apparently, according to Minister Cormann, low wage growth is a deliberate part of the government’s economic architecture. temporary skilled migration is a critical component. But wages are unaffected!
        Just saw your edit. – lol.

      • Ginger,

        I only read it after seeing your link.

        It is worth a read as an exercise in how “think tanks” compile information and what they leave out.

        I couldn’t see any specific data on:

        How many students are working – there are over 600,000 of them.

        What jobs they do

        How much they get paid

        Are they on the books as employees.

        The fact that the government does not make this information public is a big red flag.

        “..The vast majority of international students in Australia have work rights, unlike in some countries where the right to work is conditional. However, it is clear the prospect of future residency is an important factor for a minority of international students.
        Temporary Graduate visa category
        The Temporary Graduate visa category is growing quickly off a low base. As of March 2019, there were just over 80,000 Temporary Graduates in Australia, almost double the number from two years previously. Changes to the student visa framework in 2011 following the Knight Review introduced the opportunity for new international stu- dents to a straightforward two- to three-year unsponsored work visa.
        Students and the labour market
        Students in Australia are generally allowed to work for 40 hours each fortnight when courses are in session, and unlimited during breaks. While an automatic work right has only existed since 2008, prior to this it was very common for work rights to be granted on application. The right to work for international students is designed to supplement their living expenses, often substantial given education fees and accommo- dation in major urban centres. While it is difficult to say with certainty how many students work at any one time, surveys show about half participate in formal employment.
        Unlike temporary skilled visas, a student working in the labour market requires no formal sponsor. They can enter a formal employment rela- tionship equivalent to an Australian citizen. This generates a sense of freedom for the student, meaning they are not tied to a single employer. Yet it is clear the costs associated with higher education in Australia, combined with living expenses, mean some students likely struggle to make ends meet, skewing the balance between work and study. Without the right to work, there would be a strong incentive for many students to work in the informal labour market, likely without protec- tions and standards such as insurance and minimum wages…”

      • @ Pfh

        Why are you like this? Its exhausting. All I want to see is MB rip this apart, because I’m having people send it to me as a way to support the continued high immigration process.

        Hence why I asked: “MB PLEASE refute this”

      • Nathan,

        It seems I misunderstood your original post.

        I thought you were presenting the paper as a solid argument in support of temporary working rights that demanded a response.

        I had a quick look and could see some obvious holes and was a bit puzzled as to why it required a refutation.

        Thus why I asked you to point to the bits that you thought were compelling.

        I appreciate now that you were just bringing it to Leith’s attention so he could give it a thorough smackdown that you could send to the people sending you the CEDA report.

        I suspect Leith might provide you with what you have requested as having a hefty swing at CEDA spruik is something he is very good at.


    • Wouldn’t you know, the chief executive and chief economist of the organisation who made the report are from the BCA.

    • I mean it’s not like wages are going nowhere and we have a gig economy or nothing…

    • my suggested first response Nathan: “lololol pmsl did you read the report b4 forwarding that grauniad tax hoover link to me? maybe you should have. the grauniad ‘churnalists’ have taken a pay cut’

      • Yes – always ask them to direct you to the killer points as most of the time they have not read it. If they do then you will usually have little difficulty poking holes in it. Most of the time these “think tank” reports are full of evasive weasel words that undermine the headline. A headline is about all they are after.

        Unfortunately, I misapplied this technique to Nathan above.


    • Lol @ skilled workers demonstrating their skills in Australia and not taking Australian jobs. I can refute this article in one aspect that it hasn’t even bothered to address. The skilled Chinese sex workers that have saturated Australia, willingly demonstrating their prowess at condom-free sexual activity for $30. The industry used to be well paid with gradually increasing rates until the Chinese discovered student visas and swiftly delivered their skills 24/7, bar once a week signing into some dodgy English class that ensured their vocabulary increased by 3 words a year. Instead of rates steadily increasing, they have plummeted to less, because 30 Australian dollars goes a long way in China. To claim overseas workers are not taking Australian jobs is a total lie. Categorize them as whatever you like, “skilled”, whatever, they ARE taking Australian jobs enmasse. I can’t comment on the Indians, but the Chinese have obliterated the industry with their cheap imports. Try earning 3 grand a week then earning zero a week immediately after the Chinese set up shop. I suspect it’s the same in other industries and I look forward to reading the truth.

    • Jolly Trollop 4

      Totally agree. A country so economically unsophisticated such as Nepal is providing us with the third largest student intake. They are only here to take jobs. Wont give the slightest shit next time I hear again of exploited foreign workers …

    • Lenny Hayes for PMMEMBER

      Would suggest that an overwhelming chunk don’t actually go to Aussie Unis, but to those hole in the wall private RTO’s you see in every capital city.

      The owners of those institutions generally come from the same place. It’s an old (effective) model.

  2. Im a immi and my suggestions.
    1. Fast Track PR on sale 200k Inc all exp, no welfare 5 years.

    2. At moment point system is rigged. So awkward in separating the cream, it is off the ground reality.

    3. Limiting immi is popular idea, filtering with degree distinctions and English communication should be practiced.