Australia’s international student stranglehold ends

Over the past five years, Australia has experienced an unprecedented boom in international student enrolments, which hit an all-time high 712,000 as at June 2019:

Moreover, Australia now has by far the highest concentration of international students in the developed world, with per capita enrolments roughly 2.5 times second-placed United Kingdom and three times third-placed Canada:

One of the main reasons why Australia has been able to attract so many international students is because it: 1) allows international students to work 20 hours per week in paid employment; and 2) it offers international students the most generous post-study work rights in the world, as well as a relatively easier opportunity to become permanent residents.

In 2013, Australia’s graduate (485) visa was liberalised to give international graduates full work rights and allow them to remain in Australia for 2 to 4 years following their studies, without needing to have a job offer or work in an area deemed to be experiencing perceived ‘skills shortages’.

The Knight review, which recommended these changes, claimed that international students would be more likely to choose to study in Australia because of more favourable visa arrangements. As explained by Peter Mares:

Knight stated plainly that an expanded work visa was essential to “the ongoing viability of our universities in an increasingly competitive global market for students.” Vice-chancellors also made the connection explicit. At the time, Glenn Withers, chief executive of Universities Australia, said that Knight’s “breakthrough” proposal was as good as or better than the work rights on offer in Canada and the United States.

The policy worked, with the number of graduate (485) visa holders exploding to record highs:

A recent survey by Deakin Univer­sity’s Li Thi Tran found that many international students move to graduate (485) visas because they are seen as a key pathway to permanent residency:

In terms of the usefulness of the post-study work visa, around 62 per cent indicated that they agree/strongly agree that the visa was useful in providing them with a pathway to permanent residence…

Australia’s dominance of the international student market will fade, however, with the United Kingdom last week following Australia’s lead and announcing that it will extend post-study work rights to two years from four months currently:

International students are to be offered a two-year work visa after graduating from a British university…

Currently, graduates with bachelors or master’s degrees are allowed to look for work for only four months. From next year all international graduates could qualify for a two-year period to work in the UK, increasing their chances of finding long-term employment after studying…

It is a return to the policy that was scrapped by the coalition government in 2012. May as home secretary said the two-year post-study work visa was “too generous”. That move was blamed for a drop in international student enrolments…

The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by Universities UK, which represents 130 institutions… Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, said the previous visa regime put the UK at a “competitive disadvantage” in recruiting international students.

Canada, too, has taken steps to expand its presence overseas to attract more international students:

In 2000, federal numbers show there were 122,665 valid study permits in Canada — a number that hit 572,415 last year for an increase of 467 per cent. Numbers compiled by Universities Canada say full-time international student enrolment at universities rose by about 15 per cent across Canada between 2017 and 2018…

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.

Ultimately, Australia has no natural competitive advantage in education. Rather, the key drawcard to choosing Australia is its easier pathway to permanent residency, as well as employment.

The Australian’s Judith Sloan encapsulated this reality with the following statement:

To sell overpriced degrees to overseas students, it is necessary to be able to offer the byproduct of permanent residence for graduates. Any reduction in the immigration numbers would make that sell quite a bit harder. No doubt, there was a bit of wink-and-nod between the government and the vice-chancellors on this topic.

However, with rival countries like the United Kingdom and Canada competing harder for international students by loosening visa requirements, Australia’s competitive advantage will soon evaporate.

Leith van Onselen


  1. If you do the maths, I guess half of them have to go home?

    712 / 3 years for a “degree” = 237,000 per year.

    But if the official immigration rate is 160,000/year – including 457 visa staff who never studied here – 237 minus 160 = more than 77,000 “graduates” have to go home every year.

    A better way to calculate may be to look at how many foreign “students” came here in 2017 compared to 2018. The number of enrolled foreign “students” has grown every year since 2012 but the number of PR visas issued every year is stable. 77,000 will have to go home every year – unless they get to stay on the bridging visa for life.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      I hope none of them go home. They make much better workers than locals and they know how to keep their whiny mouths shut. Not to mention they are cheaper too. It’s all win win with working vibrant students who transition to full-time working residents!

      • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

        Too right, when I started at my Bank over 10 years ago we still had white Australians working in our IT department – how quaint!

        Fortunately they have all been replaced now with Indians (and a handful of HK’ers to oversee them). There’s still two Aussie’s left, but they’re Boomers on defined pensions so its impossible to get rid of them.

        All those young Aussie kids who took on massive HECS debts to learn IT in the foolish hope of earning higher wages have been replaced – hopefully the lack of employment opportunities and educational debt load (which the Indians pay off in a couple months thanks to the AUD/INR exchange rate, and the fact their degrees cost about the same as a pair of RM Williams) will help force them out of our major cities, so we can bulldoze their homes to make way for more Indian/Chinese highrises.

        • reusachtigeMEMBER

          Yeah IT workers… what losers! Never knew how to fight off the bullies at school, still don’t know how…

          • Aren’t they richer than your types reusa? They definitely take the most spots in the top 100 rich list.
            Oh, my bad. That’s only in technologically advanced places like America. Not in some agrarian influenced real estate land

    • @jacob, the overwhelming majority never go home, they stay here until they receive permanent residency which is why Melbourne and Sydney are overcrowded.

    • John Howards Bowling Coach

      Jacob, you are forgetting the partner rights factor. Those with a Student Visa also have the right to bring a partner with them who then gets automatic work rights. This is scammed extensively, I personally know of 2 Chinese students who recently submitted paperwork for their sham marriage to enable them to join forces in scamming the Australian people, because it’s just too much effort for both of them to keep pretending to be actual students in Australia.

      We are so stupid to give any work rights, or discount public transport as the treasonous Dan Andrews recently did. The International Students are here to make money for Australia and to learn to love our goods so they need to spend the rest of their lives importing TimTams. They are not here to add vibrancy, despite evidence to the contrary they are also not here to work in a rub n tug shop, they are here to provide income to Australia, then piss off back home.

  2. reusachtigeMEMBER

    I really am extremely proud of the Anglosphere. We are working out so many new angles to make profits. I hope we now expand our working rights to school children so as to attract a larger profit margin from that education sector, not to mention much cheaper labour rates from younger kids.

  3. We do have some natural advantages.

    Time zone and flight time.

    We’re closer than LA for most of Asia. The pacific is just massive.

    And calls to mum are easier to coordinate.

      • lol
        It’s just plain reality. I know several and at least one of them chose Australia because of distance/flight time/costs.

        12hrs from Shanghai to LAX (15/9hr timezone difference) 10.5 to Melbourne (2 hr timezone difference)
        15 from Singapore to LAX (15/9hr timezone difference) to Melbourne (2hr timezone difference)
        21.5hrs Mumbai to LAX with stops (12.5/11.5 tz) 13.5 to Melbourne with stops (4.5 tz)

        Some people do consider these factors in their decisions.

  4. Stewie GriffinMEMBER

    Neoliberalism demands that national sovereignty be seen as an asset that can be used as a set of steak knives to sweeten any deal.

  5. 🙂 712,000 foreign students & partners

    🔹615,000 as primary visa holder
    🔹58,000 as a secondary visa ‘partner’
    🔹39,000 via DFAT & special visas

    90% or 641,000 in just Sydney or Melbourne.
    Source: DHA, VisaSure, Aust Educ Gov snapshots.

    To the topic – there are big difference between Australia & the UK or Canada.

    For the third world applicants with money seeking a genuine higher education with international accreditation and recognition, then the UK or Canada, US or Europe is obviously the choice.

    For the third world poor Chinese Hukou or the tens of thousands of end of life Asian vice workers, or the Indian slum & rural clearance, the poor Nepalese, Bangladeshi, Malay, Indonesian, the Arab & Middle Eastern lowlife & ideologically malevolent wanting to enter on a visa scam…

    -> Then Australia remains their first choice.

    1. In Australia the majority of the foreign students are doing nonsense courses with no international recognition. 8 year English or 14 year old high school business studies packaged up as certificate or diplomas. For those who do a University course – these are very low level ‘standard or scripted curriculum’ in a segregated pseudo or sham university setup – backpacker or 457 visa foreign teachers with widespread cheating / no exams / group assignments. They cant even speak English, let alone explain a balance sheet after 3 years of an accounting degree at UNSW.
    They aren’t here to learn or be educated.
    They are here to work illegally, repay an agent procurer debt, to launder money, to work in prostitution or some foreign run labor ring scam, to stay forever as part of visa churn.
    To get a PR
    To be an anchor in chain migration and cash back from the agent procurer for the next third world lowlife.

    2. There is no money upfront. (Other countries lis insist on full payment of all of the course upfront)
    It’s all borrowed on the basis of being able to work illegally. There are literally no checks.
    Only the first semester is paid for the COE.
    Borrowed from the agent procurer as part of the agent loan debt.
    The fake ‘self declared’ or ‘declared’ funds’ are never checked after the initial fraud.
    That money is whisked straight out again for the next migrant to be trafficked.

    3. The ‘20 hours’ able to be worked is only during courses. The courses are designed to be very short class semesters and very long breaks – unlimited hours. Plus many courses offer work experience to inverse the hours. On top of this 75% of the foreign students work illegally (Syd Uni / UTS study).
    So in effect every foreign student is basically working full time or more, many 40-60 hours a week – thieving over 530,000 FTE Australian jobs* and lowering wages.
    *530,000 Australians made unemployed costs the Australian taxpayer $9.4 billion – this is $1.1 billion more than the entire $8.3 billion in ‘foreign student fees paid (source Deloitte Access Economics – Fees paid Mode 2 onshore education services).
    And those fees are paid from money earned here I’ll. Any claim that this is an ‘export industry’ is nonsense.
    $4.5 billion in foreign remittances go out.
    It’s all massively economically & socially negative.

    4. Prostitution is a legal income source. (In NSW a foreign student or partner can work as a prostitute under a fake identity, cash, no tax). That’s why tens of thousands of end of life Asian prostitutes and their pimps as ‘partners’ have been trafficked in.
    ‘The Partners’ are allowed in on a secondary visa with no English test and full work rights. There are 58,000 such partners. Cousins, sham marriages & partners- the pimp or ‘2 for 1 visa’ racketing.

    5. There is no checking or control of attendance.
    The foreign student administration staff and teachers in the smaller ‘colleges & institutes’ are mostly backpackers or third world migrants themselves on a visa racket and a key part of their expected remuneration is the bribes paid to falsify attendance and study records. $50 a week per student to mark the roll is a usual fee paid.
    Classes of 25 or more ‘enrolled’ will often only have 10 foreign students attending by week 4 and only 2 or 3 by the end of the semester. Fraud, corruption, false attendance, group assignments, paid assignment cheating is systemic.
    Go visit some of these ‘campuses’ – see for yourself.


    And it shows in the result.

    The progression of a foreign student into a skilled high income vocation in their home country or Australia?
    3.6% (Migrant Pathways A Decade On & the Productivity Commission Report – foreign students are are NOT a suitable intake for PR.

    3.6% – which means 94% of these ‘foreign students’ fail to be anything other than a PR welfare burden if allowed to stay in Australia.

    Exposing just what a farce this whole foreign student ‘industry’ actually is.

    Australia foreign student education will remain the choice for the third world poor, petty criminals, vice workers, Asian & Indian slum clearance.

    Tens of millions are queued up as Australia continues to lower its intake criteria and standards in this foreign criminal run third world migrant trafficking racket.

  6. I’m so pissed off that my daughter even happy to accept $10 a hour can’t get a full time job, it’s all casual and designed so they don’t work more than 30 hours a month, this way they don’t even have to pay super. FFS even the local RSL is in on the rort.