Alan Tudge smacks down international education lobby

Late last year, university chancellors ordered a review into its peak lobby group – Universities Australia (UA) – because of its lack of success in influencing the Morrison Government.

The review comes after the sector failed in its attempts to gain access to pandemic financial support payments such as JobKeeper… [and failed to] secure backing for foreign students to return to Australia…

It was revealed later that UA did not believe that the Coalition would win the 2019 federal election and, therefore, had focused all of its lobbying efforts on Labor:

“There was no plan B,” said one of the participants… There was also no “blue book”, the document [listing the policies they want to see implemented] which UA would have been expected to give to the incoming government.

Clearly, UA’s lobbying efforts continue to fall on deaf ears with Alan Tudge, Minister for Education and Youth, issuing a media release attacking the education lobby’s over-reliance on international students, which he accuses of trashing pedagogical standards:

…the primary role of our publicly funded institutions is to educate Australians…

The starting point is to consider the core purposes of enrolling international students in Australian institutions.

Unfortunately, it looks to many like some institutions think there is just one purpose – to bring in dollars. This is important, as international students now account for a quarter of university revenues. But this financial objective must be balanced…

First is to enhance the classroom and learning experience of Australian students… having over 60 percent of a classroom with international students from just one or two countries, is not optimising the student experience for Australians – nor for international students. This is particularly true if universities are not applying transparent and rigorous English language requirements for international students – a concern raised recently by the regulator, TEQSA…

Australia can and should do better in this respect.

The truth of the matter is that Australia’s tertiary education system has been corrupted, overly commercialised and centred on maximising revenue and fattening administrator pay packets over teaching and research quality. It has shifted away from higher learning to higher earning.

Wage theft is widespread across universities. Front-line staff have been slashed and entry and teaching standards trashed, with the ratio of students to academic staff ballooning during the long international student boom:

Ratio of students to academic staff at Australian universities

The ratio of students to academic staff at Australia’s universities ballooned amid the international student boom.

Meanwhile, domestic students have been forced to chaperone non-English speaking students through group assignments, effectively acting as unpaid tutors ensuring that international students pass. Casualised university staff have also been bullied into passing non-performing foreign students.

That said, while Tudge’s critique is correct, he must also acknowledge that the federal government helped create the problems by providing the world’s most generous student visa working rights (i.e. two to four years) and opportunities for permanent residency.

The result was that international students were not attracted to Australia for the quality of its education, but rather because studying at an Australian educational institution was an inconvenient box that needed to be ticked gain full work rights and permanent residency.

If Tudge was truly interested in reforming the international education system to maximise benefits for Australians, then he would explicitly target a smaller intake of higher quality students via:

  1. Lifting entry standards to study at Australian tertiary institutions (especially English-language proficiency);
  2. Significantly raising financial requirements to enter Australia; and
  3. Removing the link between studying, work rights and permanent residency.

Reforms along these lines would provide significant net benefits to Australia, including: 1) improving student quality; 2) increasing export revenue per student; 3) lowering enrolment numbers to levels more in line with international norms; and 4) raising teaching standards and the experience for domestic students.

Tudge would also encourage universities to scale-up their online course offerings to provide Australian education to students in their own country, as well as establish campuses overseas. This would generate genuine education exports, rather than people imports.

Obviously, the education lobby would fight tooth and nail against such reforms. They know that Australian education is not what motivates international students to enroll. It is the lure of access to our job market, permanent residency and, in due course, family reunion migration.

Our tertiary education system is merely little more than an immigration conduit.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. Removing the link between studying, work rights and permanent residency will remove the artificial market distortion in the education sector and hence is indeed an excellent idea, which means, sadly, will not materialize in Straya.

    • happy valleyMEMBER

      +1 Tudge obviously did not read the Ministerial briefing papers that Straya needs a perpetual flow of warm foreign bodies to provide on the one hand, cannonfodder wage slaves and on the other, housing price bubble supporters.

  2. reusachtigeMEMBER

    Problem with unis is that they probably don’t do sizable enough donations back to the two main political parties. Lobbying is useless without payment. For Tudge though the unis need to employ an extremely hot woman with great moves to work on him. You need to know your audience.

    • Unis were much better when students went through a left wing stage, smoked pot, a looked like they just walked out of a mud slide.

  3. If it isn’t the Milkshake N Tacos Kid, failing upwards from Robo Debt to Big Australia to Teacher Bashing. Nevertheless, the Coalition’s symbolic pushback against China and edu-migration advantages them over Albanese Labor.

  4. Arthur Schopenhauer

    A former Boston Consulting Group alumni. Worked as an adviser on Education during the Howard years.

    One of the people who influenced the transformation the education system to what it is. Not a single word should be taken at face value.

    As always, watch what he does, not what he says.

  5. Did LVO hack Tudge’s peas release! 😂
    Hopefully it’s not just words and they take real action as suggested in this article. But they really need to do is adopt policies that do good for Australia not individual companies or industry sectors as it’s just one area that has being distorted by short termism & lobbying.

  6. Frank DrebinMEMBER

    Nek minnit:

    “CMM has seen the terms of a bonus scheme a university is offering to Indian and Nepalese agents. The sliding-scale scheme is structured to reward agents who up their student numbers for the university. The university provides a table which outlines top-line commission aggregates. If the agent recruits 70 students, they can make a possible commission of $427,500. Not bad for a years work.”

  7. Education in Australia is too expensive. Practically, non-existent.

    In fact, everythings too expensive. Everywhere you go in Australia, everyone just wants your money… and thats about all you live for.

    • Frank DrebinMEMBER

      …some men/women aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men/women just want to watch the world burn.

  8. What’s interesting is that the foreign student boom was driven mainly by the business lobby, not unis. Certainly the unis were all for it, but the real driver was employer groups who saw the student-visa pathway as a way of increasing the permanent immigration intake by stealth.

    So if Tudge is smacking anyone down here, it’s big business. So I very much doubt it’s real.

    • Banks see them as a source of new loan demand for Harry T flats filled with harvey Norman appliances.
      International students ARE the ponzi and Tudge aint goint to change sh*t.
      80% of South Australians were polled as opposing the international student pilot program. These words are pre election positioning aimed at that 80%. Scummo is going to run as the ‘tough on borders’ candidate and Tudge’s comments should be interpreted in that light…

  9. A fish rots from the head.

    While ever VC’s have exorbitant bonus structures linked to revenue generation rather than education standards you will have an entity chasing profit motives. The boards should also be sacked as they set the tone for what the VC does. Change the metrics to education standards, global ranking, research outcomes etc and watch the scorecard change. I have no issues with VC’s being paid big dollars if they produce outcomes which significantly advance the education of Australian citizens.