International student whistle blower exonerated

In late September, it was revealed that Dr Gerd Schroeder-Turk – one of the three whistle-blowing academics that appeared on Four Corners’ Cash Cows report into Australia’s international student industry – was being sued by Murdoch University for damaging the institution’s reputation and causing a fall in international student enrolments.

This led to a strong backlash against Murdoch University, with academics and unions from across the globe rallying in support of Dr Schroeder-Turk.

Thankfully, Australia’s Department of Home Affairs has told Murdoch University that Dr Schroeder-Turk “cannot be blamed” for the institution’s visa downgrade, which has been blamed for a substantial loss of international student fees, effectively exonerating the academic:

In late September, Murdoch filed a cross-claim alleging that it had suffered “loss and damage” as a consequence of Dr Schröder-Turk’s disclosures to the ABC and two other media outlets, and citing five “particulars” to support this claim.

The first particular was a move by the Department of Home Affairs to raise Murdoch’s immigration risk rating to level 3 – the worst possible rating, for the first time in its history – after the broadcast.

Murdoch is one of only two Australian universities with a level 3 risk rating. This means that to obtain visas to study at Murdoch, people from countries considered to represent even a moderate immigration risk must supply extra evidence of their financial capacity and language ability.

Murdoch claimed that this adverse rating had hampered its international student recruitment. It said that the intake this semester had been 14.8 per cent lower than forecast, with a likely revenue impact “in the order of millions of dollars”. The university earned A$74 million (£39 million) from international students last year, up from A$55 million in 2017.

However, Home Affairs risk ratings are based purely on immigration metrics such as rates of unsuccessful and fraudulent visa applications and students overstaying their visas. “Media coverage does not influence a provider’s immigration risk rating,” the department told Times Higher Education.

National Tertiary Education Union president, Alison Barnes, has taken the opportunity to dig the boot into Murdoch University:

Barnes told The PIE News the suggestion that it was Schroeder-Turk’s appearance on Four Corners and not Murdoch University’s practices that caused the university’s risk rating to increase was “embarrassing to Murdoch”.

“It is like Murdoch does not understand the complex nature of the Department’s formulation of risk ratings, which take into account a range of external factors. That can’t be the case, so the only logical conclusion is that Murdoch is attempting to intimidate the academic into dropping his claim”…

According to a DHA explanatory note obtained by The PIE, risk is based on the rate of visa cancellations, visa refusals due to fraud, visa refusals excluding fraud offshore, student visa holders becoming unlawful non-citizens, and subsequent protection visa applications.

Murdoch University’s leadership needs to fall on their swords.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. “Murdoch University’s leadership needs to fall on their swords.”

    As the reason we have a corporate structure in universities is greater accountability and better standards of management we can expect that the entire leadership team with be turning in their badge any day now…..

    “Murdoch is one of only two Australian universities with a level 3 risk rating. This means that to obtain visas to study at Murdoch, people from countries considered to represent even a moderate immigration risk must supply extra evidence of their financial capacity and language ability.”

    Which means that the privatised agents charge at least double to put this package together. That will get worse as the Australian government adopts a fully privatised immigration system.

  2. Blind Freddy could tell it was daft to sue the mathematician. So why the intimidation tactics? Is it a VC’s ego at stake or is it that there are more details they don’t want revealed in a proper investigation? I agree, it is time for falling and swords. The sword of Damocles has to be set in motion.

    • I just checked with Betfair and the odds of the big cheese at Murdoch falling on his sword are 1000-1.

      (Would have been longer but it stops at 1000)

      • I am with you Peachy. However they might have a sword fall on them first. In which case you might not get to claim that bet.

        Seriously, at some point someone will realise that win or lose the case with mathematician, there is no future with this crop of execs. They are beyond tainted. The only pragmatic option is to remove them, promise to do better and then start again.

    • I don’t see anywhere in the report that the University has dropped the case against him.

      Murdoch Uni seems to still be pursuing him to make an example to other whistle-blowers.

  3. When workers at any level see people paid £20 million to pretend to be someone else ( Jonny Depp etc) or paid £30 million pa to oversee people kicking a ball about ( Jose Mourinho etc) is it any wonder they think they are entitled to their bit? Wonderful stuff, this cheap money….

  4. proofreadersMEMBER

    “Murdoch University’s leadership needs to fall on their swords.”

    Not likely. This is Straya – we’re different.

  5. “Murdoch University’s leadership needs to fall on their swords.”

    they can only fall on a golden parachute

  6. Aussie1929MEMBER

    A work colleague told me his son is paired up with an international student to help them as their english is not the best, it seems it’s in his best interests to help them pass or it can affect his own mark. This is the lunacy of a broken and corrupt system of universities and government collusion.

    • Tsk, tsk … surely you know by now that the local students do all the heavy lifting and the VCs get to pocket the loot.

      That’s just the way the world works these days 😉

    • Group assignments with native English speakers doing the work so that foreign students can bludge and then get a good mark is pretty standard practise within most Australian universities these days.

      • Imagine being an institute that implements policy that is likely to foster resentment against a certain class of people.

  7. I can’t think of any time this has happened in the private sector (someone effectively sued for being a whisteblower) — yet a government University can get away with doing this? They might think they are acting in their own self-interest, but I don’t think they are winning any friends.

    • At a private company the whistle-blower will be sued for for divulging “commercial secrets”.
      In the government, they’ll throw the book at you, just look at the ATO whistle-blower facing 163 years in jail, or secret trials for the military.

      In most walks of life, it pays to throw out your morals. Those who don’t end up like Edward Snowden.