Absurd growth in Nepalese international students rings alarm bells

The Department of Education has released its international student data for the 2019 calendar year, which reveals that total international students enrolments hit an all-time high 957,000:

Total international student enrolments rose 9.7% from 2018 and have increased roughly ten-fold from 1994.

As shown in the next chart, China (261,000) remained Australia’s largest source of international students, followed by India (144,000) and Nepal (69,000):

However, Nepal is now Australia’s fastest growing major market, growing by more than 200% over the past three calendar years:

New enrolments from Nepal have also exploded by around 190% over the past three calendar years:

As shown in the next chart, the growth in Nepalese international students has been driven by both the university (higher education) and VET sectors, whose enrolments have ballooned by 130% and 490% respectively over the past three calendar years:

Finally, most Nepalese international students have gone to New South Wales, where enrolment numbers have ballooned by 215% since 2016, accounting for nearly two-thirds of total Nepalese student enrolments:

The explosive growth in Nepalese international students raises concern over whether Australia’s universities have further dropped entry and teaching standards to drive the student growth.

Recently, education experts warned that dodgy education agents have driven the surge in Nepalese students, offering the carrot of gaining work rights and permanent residency:

The number of education agents – or recruiters – operating in Nepal has leapt from a few hundred to more than 3000… 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”…

In a similar vein, Tim Colebatch last year questioned why so many Nepalese are coming to Australia given Nepal is so poor, shares no cultural ties with Australia, and does not speak English:

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.

Obviously, Nepalese are gaming Australia’s education system for backdoor immigration into Australia. This is being facilitated by our higher education industry, which has slashed entry and teaching standards to accommodate them, and have effectively become ‘middle-men’ to Australia’s immigration system.

The situation is likely to worsen as Australia’s universities cut entry and teaching standards even further to fill the hole left by falling Chinese international student enrolments in the wake of the coronavirus.

Unconventional Economist


  1. most Nepalese international students have gone to New South Wales

    which is more expensive than Vic. It is truly absurd.

  2. OMG, “Obviously, Nepalese are gaming Australia’s education system for backdoor immigration into Australia”. Really, they’re gaming the immigration system? I’d had thought the immigration system was designed with just that in mind, for how bloody long has our so called education system been used as a gateway to PR? So the system pretty well works as it’s meant to, to accuse the students of gaming it is pretty bloody low. The unis are not middle men, lay the blame where it belongs.

  3. TheRedEconomistMEMBER

    I met a late 20s Nepalese kid working down the Sydney Markets. I asked him why he came to Australia. He replied he did a accounting course about 5 years ago. I asked why had he not got work in accounting. He replied I can get more work delivering fruit and veg plus maybe get a second job for cash somewhere else. I am just keen to work.

    So he just wanted PR in the end and then slowly get ripped off in the services industry. No intention at all to use the training he did. All about get work and send cash back to Kathmandu. I am pretty sure his tale is a familiar one.

    • RE so the Himalayan’s are going to be the people who buy our houses, they will be able to ger a $50k mortgage on a good day

      • We just had four of them buy this tiny 2 bedder duplex, they stuck their flag out front, haven’t cut the grass since moved in, and haven’t removed the sold sign.
        They look useless, can’t wait for properly to crash, they wouldn’t stick around

      • I get it
        They’re the ones buying the kennels in the sky as it reminds them of home. Rarefied air and all

      • TheRedEconomistMEMBER

        A decent house in some areas of Nepal goes for about Aus$500k. After asking how can they buy placed here one Australia. He replied it was not hard to find fellow Nepalese helpful to extract cash out Nepal and into “property” here in Aus via agents or shadow purchaser’s

        They are hard working people and most can be found here in Sydney working hard and willing to do multiple job and live in new found ghettos of Blacktown and Bankstown.

    • Forrest GumpMEMBER

      Nepalese are generally an innocent and naive people in their own country. Their innocence is easily exploited by many basic scams particularly coming out of India. Given they are also poor and family orientated, they are easily swayed into undertaking one of many useless training courses in Aust with the hope of a job and PR. And here we are

  4. The major battle during the 1890s debates regarding the federation of Australian colonies was the issue of exploitation of workers from neighbouring countries.

    Many Australian’s were deeply embarrassed by the fake employment contracts of the south sea labour trade that were used to mask employment relationships that were in practice close to or effectively slavery.

    The “Free Traders” argued for the freedom to import as much labour as they could freely contract to bring to Australia and exploit. Queensland sugar farmers in particular demanded continued access to cheap and compliant labour and made many of the arguments that are familiar today…..locals don’t want to work……opportunities for poor people to earn a living even if a lousy living….etc.

    The Australian universities are simply giving a veneer of respectability to what is nothing more than the latest manifestation of the pre federation “Free Trader” vision of complete freedom to import and exploit cheap labour from poor countries.

    Temporary residence with limited work rights is just a more sophisticated variant of the pre federation guest worker exploitation model.

    The ALP, Greens and moderate conservative politicians are failing to attack the exploitation of labour from developing countries that is almost identical to what drove the federation of the Australian colonies back in the 1890’s.

    They have allowed their “wokeness” to blind them to what is nothing more than a trade in importing labour for exploitation.

  5. While all the other OECD nations have been scratching their heads, wondering about the next real growth opportunity for advanced economies, clever Australia has stolen a march. Coming next, bulk importation of Sub Saharans.

    • I know right. Which dumb country wants to build globally relevant industries when you can goose GDP by just importing people.

      You need to be smart to spot the opportunity – and that’s what we are …

  6. Lenny Hayes for PMMEMBER

    It’s allowed to continue because it’s a de facto Aid program post the devastating earthquakes Nepal suffered. Overseas remittances keep the country going.

    We should do something positive like starting up our own Ghurka corps – those guys are next level scary.

  7. David WilsonMEMBER

    This education scam is a disgrace that the government must stop. It’s a bloody sham and although I am a conservative voter this is economic madness to prop up our economy via the education sector will end in tears and will and is continuing to flood our over crowded cities putting massive unnecessary pressure on infrastructure and housing affordability.
    Its also about time all foreign purchase of property in Australia is stopped so that Australians can once again afford our own housing costs although we probably need to see a 20% drop in values first!

  8. Much prefer the nepalese to the indians chinese

    Much more gentle and respectful people in my experience