Vice Chancellor slams “grubby” pursuit of international students

Professor Greg Craven, who recently retired as the Vice Chancellor of Australian Catholic University, has slammed the higher education sector’s rabid pursuit of international students, which he claims was done “for the grubbiest reasons”:

“[Universities’] job is not like corporations’, just to make money. Ours is to multiply social capital”…

“But we really got into the business of making money. And let’s face it, we did it for the grubbiest reasons. We wanted money because we wanted buildings and we wanted rankings.”

“For years, we knew that the quality of teaching for overseas students and the interaction between overseas and our national students was not good. But we kept doing it and we loved the fact that it raised our ATAR ranks because we were rationing domestic cases”…

“This is a disaster that needs to be fixed”…

It is heartening to see that there are still some honest players in the higher education sector.

Craven’s concerns echo those of the South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against ­Corruption (ICAC), which noted recently that the rabid pursuit of international student dollars has corrupted universities:

The ‘corporatisation’ or ‘monetisation’ of the university was also the subject of a large volume of feedback (126 respondents). These comments typically described the university as overly focused on money, student fees and the enrolment of full fee-paying students. Seven participants also raised concerns about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for their university which encourage poor practices and behaviours to meet benchmarks…

“The key vulnerability the university faces is its over-reliance on international students’ fees. This impacts on potential corruption in recruitment, enrolment, assessment, academic integrity, student support, misconduct processes and graduation. It is common for senior managers to disregard problems…and make the problem one about ‘poor teaching’ or ‘low quality assessment/curriculum’.”

Professor Craven recommends strictly regulating the edu-migration system via:

  1. Creating a national intake strategy that approves individual institution’s foreign student intakes in terms of proportion from different countries and the proportion for different courses.
  2. Specifically linking course places to a national immigration policy that benefits Australia’s interests, rather than what we get a lot of money from.
  3. Requiring universities to save for a rainy day.

Professor Craven’s recommendations are a major improvement on the status quo.

That said, I would prefer to see the federal government explicitly target a smaller intake of higher quality foreign students via:

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

My reforms 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.

Sadly, the edu-migration rent-seekers with their snouts in the trough will oppose any sensible reforms.

Unconventional Economist


  1. DingwallMEMBER

    who recently retired as the Vice Chancellor of Australian Catholic University

    Snout out of the trough, probably still dripping from the gorging ………… and he now speaks up.

    • Ritualised Forms

      Well he probably picked up something from Joe Hockey who became a critic of negative gearing in his parliamentary farewell speech, or the post politics discovery of the pernicious influence of Uncle Rupert by Messrs Rudd and Turnbull

  2. Actually to be fair, Craven had spoken about this a bit over the last few years even before he left the Uni.

  3. One reason he has spoken up could be that the ACU could not leverage their reputation, profile and ranking quite as well as say, The University of Melbourne which went “Full Retard” in attracting and courting the international student dollar.