International education is really a backdoor migration play

The Mitchell Institute yesterday released a new report examining Australia’s international education market, which forecasts that the number of international students in Australia will halve by mid next year:

Applications for international student visas have collapsed. Applications for student visas for individuals who are outside Australia are approximately 80–90% below what they were at the same time in 2019.

There are approximately 210,000 fewer international students in Australia than would otherwise be expected…

Modelling based on the rate of decline experienced in the first six months of the pandemic suggests that, compared to October 2019, there will be an approximate 50% reduction in international students inside Australia by July 2021…

This figure shows that the longer borders remain shut the more international student enrolments will decline. The estimates in this figure suggest that without some major change, by July 2021 there will be approximately 457,000 enrolled international students, with less than 290,000 of those inside Australia. This is a reduction of approximately 50% compared to October 2019 figures which show there were about 578,000 international students inside Australia (Department of Home Affairs, 2020a).

More interestingly, the end of the report contains analysis showing the strong relationship between Australia’s migration policy and international student numbers:

Figure 8 below highlights the relationship between migration policy and international education. The figure shows international student visas granted per year from 2005–06 to 2019–20. This figure also identifies three significant changes in migration policy relating to international students. The first major change refers to policies introduced around 2009 that ‘de-coupled’ student visas from permanent residency visas, making it more difficult to use a student visa as a pathway to permanent residency (Ferguson & Sherrell, 2019). The second major change came following the ‘Knight Review’, which loosened some of the visa eligibility criteria for international students and created more opportunities for graduates to work in Australia after their studies (Birrell, 2019). The third change is when the government implemented travel restrictions in response to COVID-19.

This figure shows that the decoupling of student visas from the permanent residency pathway in around 2009 led to a drop in the number of international student visas granted. The number of international student visas granted began to rise again in 2012 after the introduction of reforms following the ‘Knight Review’. In 2019–20, the number of international student visas granted again began to fall as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic began to be felt.

As Australia is experiencing an extraordinary disruption to the international student market, it may be an opportune time to revisit the relationship between international education and migration policy. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, there had been many concerns regarding institutional reliance on international students as well as reports of exploitation (Birrell, 2019; Hurley & Van Dyke, 2020).

The sharp reduction in international students means Australia will be able to better position itself in how it would like to shape any future growth in international students. Indeed, while this paper identifies the extraordinary challenges facing the international education sector, it seems not a case of if international students will return but when. From a policy perspective, it seems wise to add how to the policy discussions. Effort should work towards a more sustainable, equitable, and fairer international student education model that delivers benefits for all stakeholders, including international students themselves.

Herein lies more evidence that the international education industry is really just an immigration scam, with universities behaving more like migration agents than educators.

MB has also previously identified the Knight Review as a key impetus behind Australia’s international education boom:

Following a strategic review of the student visa program in 2011 (‘the Knight review’), the Gillard Government liberalised graduate (485) visas in 2013.

Specifically, 485 visa holders were excluded from needing to meet the Australian standard for an occupation on the Skilled Occupation List. They were also permitted to remain in Australia for between two and four years post study, rather than the previous 18 months.

The Knight review was strongly in favour of expanding post study work rights because of the significant benefits to Australian universities and Australian employers. That is, following these changes, international students would be more likely to choose to study in Australia because of more favourable visa arrangements.

Not surprisingly, Australia’s graduate (485) visas are considered one of the most attractive of their kind in the world because they provide full work rights to international students.  They are also treasured by international students because they are widely perceived as a pathway to permanent residency.

As Peter Mares explains:

“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”.

Sadly, rather than following the Mitchell Institute’s advice and using COVID-19 as “an opportune time to revisit the relationship between international education and migration policy”, the Morrison Government instead extended eligibility for post-study work visas to future students who study online from overseas, so as to incentivise them to enrol in Australian universities:

The eligibility was extended to future student visa holders on Tuesday, just one day after an ­announcement offering post-study work visas to current international student visa holders who have been forced to study online from other countries due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

A spokesperson for Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge confirmed the change, which is a major boost to universities and other education institutions enrolling international students.

It means that students and ­prospective students now have more certainty about their right to a post-study work visa, which allows them to remain in Australia and work for a period after they complete their course…

The change will help overcome barriers that make Australia less attractive to international students compared with competitor countries.

As usual, the negative effects on Australia’s labour market have been ignored, such as local graduates facing increased competition for jobs and lower wages.

As noted above, holders of graduate (485) visas are not required to be qualified for any of the jobs on the Skilled Occupation List. They do not need a firm offer of work from an employer. They are not required to be paid a minimum salary. Nor must they find a job related to their qualifications or require a certain level of skill.

In short, 485 visa holders may work or study in any job, for any employer. And their visa remains valid even if they cannot find a job.

Any increase in graduate (485) visas will create another positive labour supply shock that will lower the bargaining power of younger Australians and local graduates, thereby placing downward pressure on wages.

Rather than loosening access to the 485 visa, it should be tightened significantly. Otherwise, wage growth will never recover, especially given current high unemployment and underemployment.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. Totes BeWokeMEMBER

    If Labor concentrated on getting the seats it has lost due to backing massive immigration, that of course includes pleb parents in the suburbs unhappy their kids university opportunities are sold to foreign students, then Labor would no longer need to appease the likes of Fitzgibbon, and could implement zero emissions by 2050.

    Immigration has made Labor unelectable. Immigration is therefore behind Australia’s failure to address CC.

    When is Labor going to begin the narrative that addressing immigration is absolutely NOT r=÷ist?

    But is instead critical for fairness among Australians, essential for the environment including koala habitat, housing affordability and the ability to address climate change.

    CC, immigration, environment, fairness, welfare and Medicare sustainability, koalas, housing, it’s all up to Labor, and cannot occur until they change their position on immigration….or are gone.

    • On the contrary, Albanese Labor imagines that the Garnaut-Guardian fairy stories of “net zero emissions” and “Australia energy superpower” will quite bedazzle the workers, and make them forget all about mass migration.

      • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

        lol, I reckon you’re right now I read what you’ve said. Labor are just beyond ridiculous. The whole lot of them are off the charts child like thinkers.

        Most workers I know hate them. What’s left supporting Labor, is woke inner city elite climate warriors, backed by MSM on the take of a bipartisan support for a big Australia.

        We are such mugs.

      • I don’t know what it is about Albo but everything about him screams ‘cordless electric lawn-mower’.

          • It’s about time, let’s face it. He is not the leader the Labor Party need and, frankly, he couldn’t lead a pack of kids to a lolly shop.

          • Totes BeWokeMEMBER


            I don’t think it matters who leads, they can’t win, being pro massive immigration.

            It’s like an anchor. They are so compromised, they can’t give it up.

          • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

            I haven’t read that, but i know how i feel about it, I know how 90% of people around me feel about it, and what Birell etal say makes complete sense to me. It’s pretty much exactly how I see it, and let’s face it, it’s backed by the election result map, environmental, amenity, employment, housing and opportunity considerations. It defies everything the plebs want.

            I’ll read that link, thanks, but knowing it’s written by academics with vested interests I’m not at all hopeful I’ll believe a single word.

            Did you read the comments under Keneallys SMH article when everyone thought they were considering cutting immigration? Along with pretty much every immigration article right across MSM. 99% comments are against.

          • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

            I’ve read some of it. Typical academic rubbish.

            “Question wording: “In deciding how
            you would vote in the election, which was most important to
            you?” For those who responded ‘policy issues’, answers from
            the following question are incorporated: “Still thinking about the
            same 10 issues, which of these issues was the most important
            to you and your family during the election campaign?” Economy
            combines ‘management of the economy’, ‘superannuation’, and
            ‘government debt’. Environment combines ‘environment’ and
            ‘global warming’. Immigration / refugees combines ‘immigration’
            and ‘refugees and asylum seekers”

            That’s got to be a joke. It doesn’t define whether the question refers to immigration as a positive or negative, it combines ref9gees and immigration. It asks to rank in order…that doesn’t mean immigration isn’t just a millimetre less important than being able to feed your kids. Is that sample size statistically significant, I’m not sure it even outlines the method precisely etc etc etc.

            The importance of the question has been left under a rock, no wonder it doesn’t show as significant, or does it, I can’t tell.

            “Voters preferred the Coalition’s policies on management of
            the economy, taxation, and immigration.”….. Can only guess whether that’s positive or negative.

            Just academic waffle, that shows absolutely nothing. They should be embarrassed about how ridiculous that is.

            Scientific reports are 1000% more professional, unambiguous, legible, tables, graphs, etc etc etc.

            I’ve done those surveys and was frustrated with the ambiguity and vagueness of the questions.

            Choice bothered me for months after. Called me once as agreed to do a survey on the survey…..I kid you not, they then asked me about my preferred beer choice…

            …”So, was the survey a positive experience, out of 5 where 1 is low and 5 is high, etc etc etc etc How would you rate XYZ beer out of 5, where” ……

            Never again.


  2. I think the title of this piece could have been “No shit Sherlock”

    But since when has either party cared one jot about wages and working people? So long as stocks and property rise in price and the manipulated unemployment rate remains low…

  3. This offshore study and possibly no visa thing was something I was watching very carefully, as were the hoardes of Indian students making loud noises about it on SBS Hindi.

    It turns out the biggest changes were made back on 20 July, but the Government wisely did not advertise its hanidwork to the masses at the time. I am past getting worked up about this kind of C__ act, initiated by the LNP but cheered on by the fake left.

    The population is so drunk on wokeness they would not dare question the utter fraud associated with allowing someone to waltz in here after studying online from Bhutan and have full work rights (including for their partner) because R word.

    Either the local Uni grads get organised and say no to this rot, or they can figure out what do with a $65,000 HELP debt and a ‘gig economy’ job that pays them $250 for 60 hours a week work in a country where a poorly built 2BR dog box 45KM from the CBD costs $800,000. It doesn’t affect me at my age and income, and frankly I am just beyond caring.

    • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

      Great comment.

      “Either the local Uni grads get organised and say no to this rot”

      They’re kids, indoctrinated since birth at woke school, woke MSM, woke Labor and Greens news grabs. The policies that appeal to good humans such as the environment and fairness are now firmly attached to immigration. Thanks to Labor.

    • Arthur Schopenhauer

      “It doesn’t affect me at my age and income, and frankly I am just beyond caring.”

      But you do really care, a lot. Send a letter to a Federal pollie. Support a local candidate who is not liberal or labor. Do something, however small. It will make a difference.

      • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

        IMO you cannot compete against the system that’s gotten us here without something far more organised and radical.

        • Arthur Schopenhauer

          My local community got two decent people elected as local councilors, in the place of two Liberal property spivs.

          Both parties are much weaker than people realize. There is no need for any radical rupture. Getting decent people elected is still possible.

          Get out. Make connections in your local community and get someone other than Liberal or Labor elected.

          Do the work. It can be done.

          If you can’t do that, take the energy on writing a blog comment, and email your local member. Every change takes a multitude of small actions.

          • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

            I’m happy to write to local members and help others outside LNP and Labor. I’ll take you up on that.

            I’d also like to be part of an organised effort to expose Labor for the anti worker, anti environment, anti fairness party they now are. They are the most despicable people in Australian politics and I want them to pay for what they’ve done to our country.

          • Arthur Schopenhauer

            The first step is joining a few sports clubs, community groups, local council committees etc to meet some like minded people. There are plenty of people as frustrated as everyone commenting on this blog.

          • I tried that route myself only to discover that my views on ways to improve the situation are not shared by the masses.
            Yes they share my frustration
            Yes they share my disgust
            Yes they share many of my social and religious values
            No they don’t share my solutions
            They don’t want to take any medicine
            they don’t want to give up a penny of their wealth (read house price)
            they don’t want to support Australian industry
            they don’t want real reform instead they just want to be the one profiting from the injustice.
            they don’t want real improvements in Education
            in short they don’t really want change …
            that’s about where I exited because this for me is a fundamental impasse.

          • I can attest to both major parties being weak. A good independent candidate with strong community roots can win.

            It is worth mentioning that a federal seat campaign costs at least 100k to play. The majors can drop a million on a marginal seat campaign. You need very very strong community support and name recognition to overcome that barrier.

          • A good independent candidate with strong community roots can win.
            No doubt about it
            But what is it that they want their candidate to do?
            My experience was that they want more local rorts, lots of local rorts.
            they want new surf clubs (paid for off the public purse)
            they want jobs, especially the kind where attendance (and work itself) are optional
            they want stupidly priced local government building initiatives, $5M school halls in hick country towns.

            And you want to know what? they get very annoyed when their candidate doesn’t deliver, or worse still their candidate has other ideas.
            Things like real businesses with real jobs leveraging real local or educational advantage are real low priorities.
            Just my experience, so I’d love to hear from others that were successful.

          • You might work on it from the other end as well. Put the major parties last and their sitting member last of all, especially if you live in a marginal seat. There was real fear among the politicians when Pauline Hanson proposed that her party members do just that, at a time when One Nation only had around 1 million voters.

          • The reality is unless there is a hung parliament there really isn’t much the local independent can do, even if they want to. A majority government can simply ignore the independents as they don’t need their vote for anything, while the independent has a single vote that cannot achieve anything without consent and vote of government.

          • Totes BeWokeMEMBER


            Unless there’s a number of Independents needed to form government.

            Suppose Oakshot and Windsor were elected on the back of our support and donations, and instead of pushing for selfish BS in their electorate, they instead pushed for what’s good for the country. Now imagine there’s 10 or 20 independents LNP or Labor need to form government.

            It’s absolutely possible. It just needs a modest number of people, money and coordination.

    • ‘gig economy’ job that pays them $250 for 60 hours a week work in a country where a poorly built 2BR dog box 45KM from the CBD costs $800,000

      Or do what any smart youngster would do, and what my kids did, and leave the country. There are better options in many other countries.

    • Uni grads these days are worse than useless — like dog-ball licking automatons, they turn up to lectures, swallow the swill that’s been fed to them and go away, their sole objective being to pass the exams and secure their precious degree.

      They don’t care that passionately about the world’s issues anymore, they don’t think anymore, they don’t question what the lecturers are teaching them (economics is a prime example). Most of the people who change the world in a real way take one look at what Uni has to offer them and pull the pin, ASAP.

      • RobotSenseiMEMBER

        Yes but when unemployment is rife, a house costs 5 kidneys and winning an Olympic medal is required to score a permanent job – can you blame them?

        • I don’t blame them at all — I’m just making the point that you’d be stupid to rely on them to bring about change.

  4. SnappedUpSavvyMEMBER

    That Gillard knight review needs shredding just like her lawyer mate general protections scam, what a cow

  5. I hope Donald Trump is proven to be the true choice of the people,
    the treacherous Labor Party really should change their name to the Progressive Party or they could keep the Labor bit and call themselves the Treacherous Labor Party,
    when it’s time to vote again, vote only for a party that is against mass Third World immigration, if there is no one like that on the ballot paper, then do not vote at all, if enough people do this there will be change,
    the people are not organised, so we will likely need a Great Orator.

  6. In effect Australia is selling off its citizenships. But rather than al Australians sharing in the benefits, they all go to the university hierarchies and inner city apartment developers.

    Another day, another rort.