Melanie Macfarlane, founding member of the International Student Education Agents Association and member of the Migration Institute of Australia, has penned an article highlighting how the international education industry is the key feeder of the ‘Big Australia’ mass immigration policy.
Macfarlane basically admits that Australia’s international education industry has only grown so big because studying in Australia is a prerequisite for gaining both work rights and permanent residency. She has called for a “national approach” to encourage temporary and permanent migration so that the international education industry does not fall over:
States have been doing as much as they can to support the sector… the states want students to stay and actively encourage them to do so with enticing pathways for those who study in colleges and universities in their towns and cities. It is the federal government that wants to keep the divide in place, making it hard to approve a student visa if the intention is viewed as students wanting to remain permanently…
Every state, except for Victoria and Queensland, has now released its full list of occupations for skilled migration and some have made it abundantly clear that they want students to stay…
The leaders of the states and those working in international education for state government… are prepared to reward them for spending their time and money on studies.
When is the federal government going to wake up to its economic responsibilities when it comes to its fourth largest export industry?
The above is further proof that the core purpose of the international education industry is not to sell education, but permanent residency.
Universities and other higher education providers behave more like migration agents than educators, effectively selling permanent residency via the university bursar’s window.
In a nutshell, the federal government has worked hand-in-glove with universities to create a system that encouraged massive growth in full fee paying international students by:
- The federal government offering the world’s most generous student visa working rights (i.e. two to four years) and opportunities for permanent residency; and
- Australia’s universities lowering entry and teaching standards to ensure large number of students qualify to study and pass their courses.
The result is that international students are not attracted to Australia for the quality of its education, but rather because studying at an Australian educational institution is a key criteria to gain full work rights and permanent residency.
Indeed, a recent survey from Deakin and Charles Darwin universities showed that the overwhelming majority of international students perceived the graduate (485) visa to be a vital ingredient to gaining permanent residency:
Post-study work rights (PSWR) are becoming increasingly influential in international students’ decision of study destinations…
Access to the temporary graduate visa is a very important factor in international students’ decision to choose Australia as their study destination…
As shown on Figure 7, participants who remained in Australia at the time of the survey showed high levels of agreements on the ranked statements that the temporary graduate visa has been a pathway to permanent residence.
So, without such generous work rights and the prospect of permanent residency, the whole international education industry would collapse.
The upshot is that the education industry has basically abandoned the pursuit of academic excellence and instead morphed into a giant rent-seeking business focused on pushing through as many students as possible in order to maximise fees and profit.
Thus, increasing entry standards (mainly English-language requirements) and removing the direct link between international students gaining working rights and permanent residency would go a long way to cleaning up the university sector.
The education industry must be made to compete on quality and value alone and not be allowed to profit from cratering standards and acting as middle-men to foreigners pursuing backdoor migration into Australia.
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