Last year, the former vice-chancellor of Macquarie University, Professor Steven Schwartz, admitted that many international students only study in Australia to gain working rights and permanent residency:
[Professor Schwartz] said foreign students flock to courses likely to lead to jobs and permanent residency…
“Permanent residency is one of the main motivations to study in Australia’…
“If suddenly permanent residency was given to people who study poetry, it’s likely they’d all be doing poetry.”
Over recent months we have witnessed the edu-migration industry lobby the federal government to give permanent residency to students in order to increase Australia’s attractiveness as a study destination (see here and here).
Now Innovative Research Universities (IRU) – a collaboration between Charles Darwin University, Flinders University, Griffith University, James Cook University, La Trobe University, Murdoch University and Western Sydney University – have joined the fold, providing a submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration’s review of Australia’s skilled migration program demanding the federal government better link permanent residency to study:
An effective Australian international education and skilled migration policy should be clear that international students are a legitimate source of applicants for skilled migration places consistent with Government immigration targets year by year…
We should affirm that attaining a qualification from an Australian university or other provider is a positive outcome for a person in demonstrating their relative standing for skilled immigration visas.
…there should be a pathway that allows international students to apply for residence and citizenship.
Australia’s education industry is already an integral part of the immigration system – effectively a pathway for purchasing backdoor working rights and permanent residency.
Basically, 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 because studying at an Australian institution is a key criteria to gain full work rights and permanent residency.
In turn, the education industry has abandoned the pursuit of academic excellence and instead morphed into giant rent-seeking business focused on pushing through as many students as possible in order to maximise fees and profit.
On this front, the edu-migration industry has been very successful. Before COVID, Australia had by far the highest concentration of international students in the world at roughly 2.5 times the UK’s, triple Canada’s, and five times the US’:
Instead of granting international students even greater pathways to residency, the federal government should instead target a smaller intake of higher quality students by:
- Raising entry standards (particularly English-language proficiency);
- Raising financial requirements; and
- Removing the link between studying, work rights and permanent residency.
These reforms would improve student quality, lift export revenues per student, and would lower enrolment numbers to sensible and sustainable levels that are more akin with international norms. They would also help to lift teaching standards and the experience for domestic students, which must be our universities’ primary priority.
Australia’s education industry must be made to compete on quality and value alone and not be allowed to profit from trashing standards and behaving as agents to foreigners pursuing backdoor migration.
Education should be about higher learning, not higher earning.