Agents demand permanent residency for international students

Mark Lucas, the chairman of the peak lobby for education agents working in Australia called the International Students Education Agents Association (ISEAA), has called on the Morrison Government to “reinstate the link between international students and immigration” to reinvigorate the edu-migration industry.

“Australia can’t survive without migration. Our birth rate is getting to below replacement levels”…

“So why not have students who you can assess while they are studying? And when they’ve finished, you can say, ‘yes, you are educated and yes, you have assimilated into the culture of the country’”…

He said Australian vice-chancellors should lobby the government much harder to open the door again to students…

We’ve been here before.

After a strategic review of the student visa program in 2011 (‘the Knight review’), the Gillard Government greatly expanded working rights for graduate (485) visas in 2013.

In particular, 485 visa holders were not required to meet skills shortage requirements and were permitted to remain in Australia for between two and four years after they completed their studies, rather than the previous 18 months.

Therefore, unlike temporary skilled shortage (TSS) visas, holders of graduate (485) visas were not required to be qualified for any of the jobs on the Skilled Occupation List. They did not need a firm offer of work from an employer. They were 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 could work or study in any job, for any employer. And their visa remains valid even if they cannot find a job.

The Knight review was strongly in favour of expanding post-study work rights because it would greatly increase Australia’s attractiveness as a destination for international students, in turn delivering significant benefits to Australian universities and employers.

As a result, Australia’s graduate (485) visas are considered among the most attractive of their kind in the world because they provide full work rights.  They are also highly valued by international students because they are perceived to be 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.

Clearly, the ISEAA’s recommendation is more of the same and is further bonafide evidence that the international education industry is really just an immigration scam in disguise, with Australia’s universities behaving more like migration agents than educators.

As usual, the deleterious impacts on the labour market or pedagogical standards from the explosion in international student numbers has been ignored entirely by these lobbyists.

Before COVID hit, Australia had the highest concentration of international students in the world at roughly 2.5 times the concentration as the United Kingdom’s, triple Canada’s, and five times the United Sates’:

Such levels were always unsustainable, brought about by cratering entry and teaching standards.

If anything, Australia should explicitly target a smaller intake of higher quality international students by:

  1. Raising entry standards (particularly English-language proficiency);
  2. Raising financial requirements; and
  3. Removing the link between studying, work rights and permanent residency.

The above reforms would lift student quality, would raise export revenues per student, and would lower enrolment numbers to sensible and sustainable levels that are more in line with international norms. They would also help to improve teaching standards and the experience for domestic students, which should be our universities’ number one priority.

Education should be about higher learning, not higher earning.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. “Australia can’t survive without migration. Our birth rate is getting to below replacement levels”

    But we’ve had enough immigration in the last 15 years to make up for that for the next 15…

    • Yeah … and we only need about 50,000 yearly net overseas migration to maintain the replacement level.
      We don’t need greater than 200,000 net overseas migration a year and the people sure don’t want them.
      However the treacherous elites have dictated we must have more and more.
      If the immigration numbers weren’t bad enough, the greatest tragedy is, it’s a mass Third World immigration program … a real population replacement program.
      Someone said, small immigration mistakes become large immigration mistakes, and we are well down that road.

  2. “Australia can’t survive without migration. Our birth rate is getting to below replacement levels”. Australian’s are having less children because the cost of living is too high wan%er..

    • Dahls ChickensMEMBER

      Re low birth rates, I reckon the psychological effects of household debt are underappreciated, particularly in highly indebted countries like Aus. Even if you accept that interest rates are unlikely to rise substantially in the medium-term, there remains a risk that they will. And if the mortgage required to buy a house is $1.5m rather than $500k, the financial effects of such an increase in rates are potentially catastrophic, rather than merely uncomfortable. In that scenario, I’d say it’s entirely rational for someone with a $1.5m mortgage to be more circumspect about taking on the extra financial burden of parenthood – or having additional kids – especially given wage growth is generally low, and likely to remain so, according to the RBA… I’ve heard Lacy Hunt discuss the link between debt and fertility but it doesn’t seem to be a topic for mainstream economists (or Mark Lucas).

      • You are absolutely right. It isn’t just the cost, though. Parenthood is also extremely onerous for people forced into high density housing. Apartment living is noisy and cramped, there is no place for the children to safely play outside without constant adult supervision, and the parents are under intense pressure to keep the children quiet at any cost. It is also difficult and expensive to find housing with a third bedroom, which is necessary if your two children are a boy and a girl. The demographer Joel Kotkin has called high density a far more effective means of suppressing fertility rates than China’s one child policy.

  3. Three cheers for COVID-19 bringing about a return to sensible levels of net overseas migration into Australia. lets hope the coming 12 months’ figures are as sensible as the last!

  4. “Australia can’t survive without migration. Our birth rate is getting to below replacement levels”…

    Species on earth procreate when living conditions are favourable – and the reverse when conditions are unfavourable. I’ve been around 70+years and I can assure you, living conditions in Australia have deteriorated substantially from the 1950’s up until the 1970’s. Governments, however, will move heaven and earth to spruik the opposite – while they go about shovelling in piles of migrants from places where living standards are shite. A deteriorating Australia will still be like paradise to them – and that’s what they’ll say on the government survey!

  5. My highly educated response to Mr Lucas consists of two words. The first word begins with the letter f. You’re all smart enough to figure out the second word.

  6. “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

    We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

    Arandhati Roy

    Not Australia!