Australia taps new ‘boom’ market for international students

Over recent months, it has become apparent that Australia’s six year boom in international students is under threat:

Australia’s three main sources of international students – China, India and Nepal – are all facing stiff headwinds that will crimp enrolments in the years ahead.

As noted previously, Chinese student visa applications have already begun to fall, down 3.3% in the year to June 2019, according to the Department of Home Affairs. Visa applications are a leading indicator for actual enrolments, thus portending falling student numbers amongst Australia’s biggest international student cohort.

The outlook for Indian and Nepalese student enrolments is also gloomy.

The Morrison Government’s 30,000 cut to Australia’s permanent migrant intake has lowered the chances of transitioning to permanent residency, thus reducing the incentive to study in Australia.

The Government has also labelled students from India, Nepal and Pakistan “High-risk”, which means they must now meet tougher requirements to gain a student visa. These include: 1) demonstrating strong English-language capacity; and 2) proving they have adequate financial resources to support themselves.

Already, several Australian educational institutions have blacklisted students from these nations, as well as cancelled ‘confirmation of enrolment’ offers.

The upshot is that student enrolments from China, India and Nepal are set to fall sharply in the period ahead, thus ending Australia’s international student boom.

Now Australia’s tertiary education providers are seeking new ‘boom’ markets, including students from Latin America:

Latin America is emerging as the fastest-growing region for international enrollments…

In just four years to 2017, the number of Latin Americans studying in Australia almost doubled, making it the fastest-growing source of international students, albeit from a low base…

A government-appointed working group, comprising representatives from education and training institutes and the research and business sectors, has been tasked with developing a strategy for engagement in the region.

The group has identified six priority countries: Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Peru…

So far, the biggest beneficiaries of the Latin American student boom have been private English language training providers…

The main deterrent for students considering Australia was its distance from their home country, high living costs and expensive course fees.

Universities are also being urged to offer more scholarships to overcome the major barrier of the cost of an education in Australia.

“It’s really a price point; if they’re having to pay for accommodation while they’re here plus around $35,000 a year in tuition fees they’re going to vote with their feet,” Mr Honeywood said.

The last three paragraphs highlight why Latin America will never become a major source of international students: they cannot afford the extortionate fees and cost of living in Australia.

The fact that universities must offer scholarships in order to attract students from Latin America underscores the reality that the number of families in Latin America that can afford to pay full fees for an Australian university degree is not large enough to support our universities’ enrolment ambitions.

Moreover, even if a sufficient number of financially-capable Latin American students could be recruited to offset the decline from the other nations, recruiting them would very likely require Australian universities to reach deep down into the talent pool, thus eroding entry and teaching standards even further.

Australia’s universities need to face the fact that the six year boom in international students is coming to an end.

Leith van Onselen

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.


  1. The bottom of the barrel now being scoured for the third world underclass migrant guestworkers to be trafficked in on a foreign student of partner visa.

    Asians – the slums of south east Asia and rural poor.
    An entire Chinese Hukou underclass of Chinese internal illegals trafficked from their Guangzhou slums into equivalent Sydney or Melbourne slums.

    The Indian mummy boy to churn & extend that visa, paying the bribes, fake doc, get the sponsor/ PR, be the anchor for the old sick abandoned mother & her sisters to soak off our welfare & healthcare.

    The Indian misfits and illiterate, Mumbai, Calcutta & Delhi slum clearance and the Punjabi rural poor recruited & in loan debt paying huge bribes to get in.

    Then the Bangladeshi & Nepalese, a whole industry of ‘intake feeders’, fake health checks, fake documents.

    The middle Eastern 27 year old Lebanese mature age student no English enrolled in Newcastle Uni paying the family to marry the 12 year old girl in a backyard ceremony, then register for Centrelink.

    🔻Not exploited.
    🔻Not victims.
    🔻Willing participants in visa fraud.

    And now the South & Central Americans.

    Like the north & south Asians/Chinese, the Indians, the Bangladeshi & Nepalese or the Middle Eastern/ it won’t be the best or brightest.

    And MB – it’s not about affordability – it’s about being able to pay the agent procurer the bribes & get in – and then who work illegally, the type of work they will do illegally.

    To repay that agent procurer debt & to send back the remittances, to churn the COe & visa (up to a 9 year stay with extensions) and to try to snag that PR.

    It is very predictable.
    It will be more of the offspring of the Brazilian San Paulo criminal class already established here.

    It will be the Vice workers & their pimps as partners from Argentina & Colombia. (Vice is a legal occupation for a foreign student in NSW, very high income in cash, no tax, no health or identity checks).

    They won’t be young.
    They will be mature aged misfit unemployable. Escaping some criminal vendetta.
    As mules for the drug money laundered in.
    Because that’s what our intake filters are set to.

    Face the facts.
    None of these 712,000 foreign students & partners are here for an ‘education’.

    🔹615,000 foreign students as primary visa holder.
    🔹59,000 as partners on a secondary visa no English test and full work rights
    🔹36,000 as special, DFAT & scholarship visas.

    The courses are nonsense.
    Go visit a foreign student campus.
    Look at the curriculum.
    Examine the so called ‘teachers’ – backpackers or Filipino book keepers themselves on a visa scam teaching ’accounting’ to a nearly vacant class as they are all out working.
    Enrollment, attendance & assignments are frauded.
    Attendance / roll marking & assignment bribes are an expected part of the ‘teachers’ & administration staff income.
    Most of the lower grade ‘colleges & institutes’ are fronts for foreign criminal syndicates black market labor trafficking.

    🔹Primary level 8 year old English packaged up as 12 week $1,600 courses. 3 attempts over 4 years, then go to the appeals tribunal for a 4 year visa extension.

    🔹14 year old high school level ‘business studies’ or ‘childhood early education’ packaged up as certificates/ diplomas / and now university degrees.

    And all the time the equivalent exists in their own country for a fraction of the cost or is free online.

    -> They aren’t here for the education.

    The progression rate by the foreign students into a high income professional vocation in Australia or the rare return to their home country?
    👉🏼 3.6%
    (Australia Migrant Pathways A Decade On & then the Productivity Commission later – foreign students intake highly corrupted & not a suitable as PR).

    3.6% – that’s right – 96%of these ‘foreign students & partners’ fail to ever be ‘educated’ or gain any professional role or income higher than an average here or in their home country.

    Exposing just what a farce this entire foreign student industry is.

    But, but wait “it’s a $36 billion export industry”.

    No – it is not.

    A farrago of lies by Deloitte Access Economics in a propaganda piece paid for by the Australian Education department.
    It may be $31 billion of ‘GDP economic activity’
    At $43.7k per foreign student & partner. (Treasury)
    Just over the Australian average, dragging down Australia GDP per Capita.

    Fund & fee facts.
    The entire TR intake each year only bring in $2.5 billion in funds (DHA) and that’s either self declared or heavily frauded, the money borrowed & only in an account long enough to get the bank statement then whisked out for the next one.
    For the foreign students, only the first semester paid for, usually a very low cost English course.

    And then they work illegally. Organised before they arrive, Fake ID, ABN rings etc.

    75% or 534,000 do. (Sydney Uni / UTS study)

    They only pay $8.3 billion in total fees (Deloitte)
    And those fees are paid from that money earned here.
    The fees are not from money brought in or paid upfront in full.
    They pay those ongoing fees from money earner here.
    So not an ‘export’ at all.

    The 534,000 illegally working foreign students then create an impact of over half a million Australians unemployed – costing over $9.6 billion.

    So on a very simple primary measurement, the Australian unemployment cost impact exceeds the entire foreign student fees paid (and remember those fees are mostly paid from money earned here illegally).
    It’s not an ‘export’
    The industry is economically negative.

    The foreign students then lower wages for everyone else – tens of billions of cost.
    They raise the cost of living for all Australians.
    In increased housing contention & congestion – tens of billions of additional cost.
    They have now degraded Australia education down 10 places globally and raised the cost of education as an Australian youth entitlement- tens of billions of additional cost impact.
    Over $4 billion (of $14 billion) or $5,600 per foreign student / partner is then sent back in agent procurer loan debt repayments & remittances. (World Bank remittances outflows 2018).

    Overall the entire Australian ‘foreign student industry’ is tens of billions negative in economic & social impact.

    It is quite simply Australia prostituting its education industry as a migrant guestworker visa alibi.

    And now scraping the bottom of the barrel globally in trafficking in an even lower grade of migrant guestworker.

      • 😊 yep I guess, (MB is still just the closed group of 70 or so members & the 50 or so occasional guests)
        So my comment isn’t for ‘the already educated’ MB readership.
        More in the hope that one day a guardian or newscorp journalist etc – looking to plagiarise some copy on the migrant visa corruption issue will stumble into it.

  2. Ffs never seen so many colombians and Brazilians doing bs courses here in brisbane and rocking up to deliver uber eats into restaurants rudely barging in with massive backpack shoving their phone into the face of the front desk

    Wtf are they doing here?? Why should my son have to compete with them for entry level work?

    This place has gone to the dogs. Really want a big recession here and the civil unrest that results so they can all gtfu and go back home

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      More Columbians and Brazilians is like a wet dream come true! What is wrong with you? Are you gay?

    • I’ll trade your Brazilian’s and Columbian’s in Brisbane for our Indian’s and Pakistani’s in Melbourne.

        • reusachtigeMEMBER

          There’s a lot of potential in curry chicks if they’d just start doing themselves up a bit and start enjoying looser relations. And Nepalese chicks, a lot of them don’t even need to try… Smoke’n!

          • @resuch you’re ignoring the potential of the Eastern European market, lets open up a fake college and recruit women from Ukraine and Russia and then have them pay off their ‘tuition’ by performing certain “services”. In the meantime we’ll hire the Indian’s and Paki’s to fabricate evidence of assessment.

          • reusachtigeMEMBER

            ^^ I’d love the additional vibrancy from importing lots more Eastern Euro chicks! I’ve always hoped we’d get our own “Russian Dolls” thing going on!!

    • I hazard a guess that South American students coming to Melbourne would absolutely hate the 4-5 months per year of cold, overcast, wet and generally sh*tty weather and would be FAR more comfortable up in Queensland.

  3. LVO do you phone the universities supposedly blacklisting students from certain nations and ask how many they have enrolled anyway?

  4. This is all wrong.

    The main problem with Sth America as a source of vibrants isn’t their financial incapacity. It’s that the USA USA more natural and convenient destination for them, (compared to Malaysians and Nepalese).

    So more seeeteners might be needed.

    Make no mistake though, there are easily enough people on that continent to come here as “students” (or fruit pickers or goat shearer’s or whatever) and choke the hell out of our cities.

    • Inclined to agree with you on this. Especially if an Australian degree is steadily becoming worth less than even the South American equivalents.

  5. When this scam falls over there is going to be a lot of unemployment in the fake education sector.

    • Only in part.
      The staffing in the Tertiary education sector as far as staff that is actually working and getting things done has been cut back and runs fairly lean in most cases.
      There would be some areas with excessive bloat, like Vice-Chancellors, senior/high-level managers and marketing departments.

    • There will be mass unemployment across the FIRE sector and services when the economy tanks. These are easily disposable jobs.

  6. reusachtigeMEMBER

    I am really looking forward to the relations shops stocking more Columbian and Brazilian options!

  7. Stewie GriffinMEMBER

    Stewie Griffin – one step ahead!

    “Exactly – there is a huge untapped market in South America – Brazil and especially Argentina, which is about to slide backwards again.

    Just give our Unis a moment to work it out (they’re not that bright) and then our many headed educational hydra will refocus towards South America…. only problem is that the population groups in South America that are likely/capable of meeting our Uni requirements are mainly white, which the diversity brigade will probably have conniptions over.”

    As I said “the only problem is that the population groups in South America that are likely/capable of meeting our Uni requirements are mainly white, ” Uni requirements = Fees.

    There’s significant European populations descended from Germans, Italians, Welsh and England. These population groups form pretty much their entire middle to upper middle class, and they’re all looking for a means of escaping the doom loop that they are facing in their vibrant Multicultural nations.

    • I think given our export complexity now being on par with Angola, low skill/no skill service sector, reliance on commodities and massive debt we could become like Argentina

      • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

        Unlike Argentina we are not at risk of being flooded with massive numbers of Mestizo Indigenous from other nations inhabiting the same continent or a huge number of Africans imported into Brazil.

        However, with the recent signing of a Free Trade pact with Indonesia, we may eventually face exactly the same issue as we start scraping the bottom of the local immigration barrel.

        • The seeds of destruction of this nation have well and truly been sown. Sadly, the general population is oblivious to what is coming down the track.

          • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

            Agreed – it will take a generation or two, but the moment Australia finds it unable to deliver all the needs of the disparate cultural groups within our borders, we will find that we are no different to any other nation filled with competing ethnic and cultural communities.

            I would suggest emigrating, but the same malaise is infecting every other Western nation that has lazily allowed alien cultural values to be grafted to the head of the underlying society.

            All you can do is prepare.

  8. A government-appointed working group, comprising representatives from education and training institutes and the research and business sectors, has been tasked with developing a strategy for engagement in the region.

    Why? But ignoring that, it sounds like a fairly cushy job. How can I get in to that “working group”?

    The main deterrent for students considering Australia was its distance from their home country, high living costs and expensive course fees.
    Literally LOL. Did my government actually pay money to uncover those facts?

    Universities are also being urged to offer more scholarships to overcome the major barrier of the cost of an education in Australia.
    That could work. In theory the universities could:
    * reduce a few million dollar salaries
    * use some of the money to fly children from Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Peru into Australia
    * use some of the money to teach these children English
    * use some of the money to feed and house these children
    * use some of the money to pay lecturers to teach these children various areas of knowledge.

    That sounds like a wonderful plan to develop a strategy for engagement in the region.

  9. I would welcome some South Americans but those numbers are tiny relative to Chinese and indians.
    And why come here when the US and Europe are closer (and better).
    Doesn’t stack up.