The shocking upsurge in Nepalese international students

Over the past three years Australia has experienced an alarming rise in Nepalese international students.

As shown in the next chart, which plots data from the Department of Education, Nepalese student enrolments ballooned by 212% in the three years to October 2019, growing from 21,000 to 65,700:

This extreme enrolment growth has seen Nepal become Australia’s third biggest source nation for international students behind both China (254,800) and India (136,400):

As shown in the next chart, the explosion in Nepalese student enrolments has been driven by the vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (i.e. university) sectors, which experienced growth of 497% and 132% respectively in the three years to October 2019:

Meanwhile, the lion’s share of Nepalese students have flooded into New South Wales, which accounted for around two-thirds of total Nepalese enrolments in October 2019:

The explosive growth in Nepalese international students has raised accusations that Australia’s tertiary education industry has badly eroded standards and is facilitating exploitation.

For example, Inside Story’s Tim Colebatch last year questioned why Australia is admitting so many students from Nepal, given it is so poor, shares no cultural ties with Australia, and does not speak English:

…one source stands out: the little Himalayan country of Nepal, just thirty million people, living in one of Asia’s poorest countries.

In 2017–18, one in every 1500 inhabitants of Nepal emigrated to Australia. In an era of strict immigration controls, that is an astonishing number for two countries so far apart, with no common language, heritage or ethnicity…

Deregulation has allowed universities to selectively lower their standards to bring in more fee-paying foreign students, even when they fail to meet the thresholds for English language skills or academic achievement…

This is not the first time immigration from Nepal has surged. A decade ago, we saw a scam with training visas, in which “students” from India and Nepal came for training courses in Australia, then quickly vanished into the workforce. The scam saw net immigration set record levels in 2008–09, before then immigration minister Chris Evans shut it down. But most of those who came stayed on here.

At the current pace of immigration, Australia will soon have more residents born in Nepal than in Greece.

Education experts have also warned that dodgy education agents are facilitating the trade in Nepalese students, many of whom are studying in Australia purely for migration purposes:

The number of education agents – or recruiters – operating in Nepal has leapt from a few hundred to more than 3000, according to a federal education department spokesman…

Unlike the Chinese and Indians, who mostly enrol in university degrees, about half the Nepalese students enrolled in vocational education and training or English language courses.

The trend has alarmed higher education experts, who warn it is unlikely the students can genuinely afford to study in Australia, and are likely involved in exploitative work to pay for their tuition.

Andrew Norton, professor of higher education policy at the Australian National University, said the Nepalese influx should be “red-flagged” by the Department of Home Affairs.

“Nepal is a country with a not-very-large population and it is very poor,” he said. “You have these basic questions of how so many people can afford to come to Australia and afford education here”…

Professor Norton said Nepalese international students had “an extremely high number” of secondary applicants on their visas, “suggesting to me that maybe they’re bringing in their spouses to work”…

Salvatore Babones, associate professor at the University of Sydney, was even more critical, accusing universities and the government of presiding over the “abuse” of poor families.

World Bank figures show Nepal’s gross domestic product per capita is about $US1000 – less than a 50th of Australia’s and half of India’s. “And yet it has this enormous contingent of students in Australia,” said Associate Professor Babones.

“This should be a red flag for everybody that they’re coming to Australia on loan-shark money, working their hearts out while they’re here in both legal and illegal employment so they can send money back to their families.

Clearly, the Nepalese are using Australia’s education system for backdoor migration to Australia, and this is being facilitated by our higher education industry, which has cratered entry and teaching standards to accommodate them.

In turn, the Australian economy is being inundated with cheap exploitative labour and our major cities (Sydney especially) are being crush-loaded.

The situation will undoubtedly worsen as our greedy education industry continues to pivot toward lower quality students from the Indian subcontinent in bid to lift both enrolments and fees.


  1. If it is ever proven that extraterrestrials are visiting earth our government will have them signed up for a degree with the lure of citizenship. Then they can do some serious probing with an Australian degree on the wall behind them.

    • The first years fees are up front, not to mention education costs for the school aged for the other-earthlings.

      Perhaps they should approach venerable institutions in Oz for a loan… AMP? CBA? NAB? Westpac? Suncorp? (reckon they’d have issues there – them venereal institutions really only rip off Ozzlings after all)

    • Reusa, I’m interested in your views on the relative desirability ranking of vibrants.

      Say you and Dutto get high together at a party and you get to talking about him what sort of vibrants he should bring in. And say he lets you decide on the next 100,000.

      How many Nepalese birds would you take? How many chinamen ladies? How many Argentinian sheilas? How many generic/ugly jimmies to drive Uber and ride those little food scooters?

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        Hey, I’m not racialist. It would be a hotness test that all humans can apply to pass but of course some races just won’t make the cut. Both sheilas and fellas.

      • The thing you need to consider is beggars can’t be choosers. The reason why current citizens need to step down and co-mingle with the vibrants is due to the fact that they have lucked out, or were never desirable to the fairer sex of the more traditional Australians. Think the fat,old repulsive gents trolling around the bars of Thailand.

        So whilst some vibrants might be more desirable than others, the cream still rises to the top. Hot South American birds might be the best, but they still know their worth and will seek out the highest bid in a capitalist economy. On the flip side, bottom feeders will always remain bottom feeders.

        • Wrong.

          More guys are becoming aware of the dud deal that Aussie women represent – they come with a good dose of feminist entitlement and age horribly from their thirties. And the clincher – theres higher chance they’ll dump your ass and run off with the bulk of your assets….as old cuck stewie would say – culture matters

          • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

            Like ya know Mac,…I kinda agree with what your saying,… a bit,…but it all doesn’t sound very Nice.
            Does it Mate.

          • @ chgsyd

            You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Clearly you’ve never worked in construction or mining, theres loads of alpha males that have been smashed via the divorce courts. You’re probably a weaselly nerd thats landed himself a fat feminist whale and thinks he’s “alpha”. Give it a few years mate….and your bank balance might be a lot leaner.

          • reusachtigeMEMBER

            Yep. This is why Chinamen ladies are great. They still look 20 when 30 and 30 when 40 and they don’t want western guys for money or materialistic reasons. They just want love and Aussie men have a much bigger and more satisfying love organ than they are used to.

          • John Howards Bowling Coach

            reusachtige I think you’ll find those Chinamen ladies are the most mercantile people on the planet and are ONLY interested in money. Most wouldn’t know let alone care what love is anyway. As their famous quote goes ‘I would rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bicycle’

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Sadly I’m still not seeing Nepalese working in the lounges. Even though they are way hotter than the Indians I think they unfortunately have the same hangups on giving service.

  2. When you’ve got too much fire and too little water, Treasury recommends, a rapid increase in Nepalese vibrants.

    Everybody in the OECD is amazed by the sophistication of our Green New Deal.

  3. I was talking last week to a Turkish guy who has been in Australia past 8 years. He’s completing his MBA at one of the Sydney unis. He said when he first arrived he worked restaurants part time while he studied. He says he doesnt bother working anymore because the Nepalese each and everytime undercut you by willing to work for way less money. Its been the case last few years ever since more and more Nepalese started coming here as so called students. His opinion was they are purely here as scab labour. Their presence has accelerated the race to the bottom. He says once he finishes his studies he is leaving Australia as he says the place is a farce that exploits and provides no opportunity for anyone.

  4. The Nepalese would be doing OK from the deal. Better pay here than at home. Try and think of it as aid to a developing country paid for by Australian workers. The enhancement of business profits is a handy side effect. Australians are very generous people. Giving to the rich and poor alike.

    • Because when I think world class skilled workers, central Asian third world $hyteholes above all else.

      Exploitation to the moon.

    • Also, the more they send back to repay the loan sharks back home the more they in turn can provide tuition fees for the next batch.

  5. Saddens me because if you’ve ever been to Nepal you’d know most people there are as kind and honest as they come. Many of these people are likely being exploited, aided by the blindness of the Australian Government.

    This is nothing new – exploitation of foreign workers is widespread in Australia. It needs criminalization and amnesty/assistance for workers who report it to stamp it out.

    It’s a question of our nation’s integrity over it’s profits. Kinda obvious why it’s happening when you look at it like that.

  6. what is shocking about it?
    the immigration law has been created to allow the cheapest labour from around the world to come under pretend of studying.

    it’s quite expected that people from the poorest stable countries in Asia are coming at masses
    and if you think Nepal is the worst offender look at Mongolia:
    number of students from Mongolia risen tenfold in just 6 years (now standing at almost 6k which is quite high for a small 3m population country) but more startlingly only slightly above 10% of them are “genuine” students studying at higher education level, more than half at ELICOS sector (basically just paying fees to someone to get visas)

    almost all of them are here just to work and while chatting to few of them most of them have intention to return back after making “enough” money – off course many will stay but the fact they come here to make money says a lot about our “export”

    • Yes, we really need to smash the ‘export’ myth.

      If only someone would do a PhD correcting the ‘export’ myth – I’m sure a university and government funding would be happy with such a thesis.

  7. This is just crazy. As Rod Tidwell so memorable said in Jerry Maguire: “Show me the money!”.

    Surely Austrac can show us how much coming in vs. how much going out to Nepal? My money is on this being an import not an export. We’ll be sending more money to Nepal than they bring in.

    • John Howards Bowling Coach

      Anon, Austrac is essentially useless for this type of purpose given the flow of funds is most likely very informal such as through cash carried home and no bank transfer channels. While I am sure you are correct it is just convenient for the government that they are unable to measure it. Just like the Chinese Government, if they say it is not happening, it must be true because you can’t prove otherwise.