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:
- 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.
- Specifically linking course places to a national immigration policy that benefits Australia’s interests, rather than what we get a lot of money from.
- 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:
- Lifting entry standards (especially English-language proficiency);
- Raising financial requirements to enter Australia; and
- 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.
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