International student numbers fall toward sustainable levels

The Australian has released a report decrying the ‘collapse’ in international student numbers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • “Australia has lost more than 100,000 foreign students in the past financial year at a cost of nearly $6bn to the economy”.
  • “There are more than 472,000 holders of Australian student visas, including those inside and outside the country”, way down from the same time in 2020.
  • “Overall commencements at Australian universities by foreign students have fallen 35 per cent from their peak in 2019”.
  • “More than 60,000 student visa holders in the university sector have dropped off in the past year, and more than 20,000 have lapsed in vocational education”.
  • Student visa holders attending English language schools have fallen to 3,000 from 19,000 last July.

Chief lobbyist, International Education Association chief executive Phil Honeywood is calling for urgent action from governments:

“Political bravery to revive the beleaguered $40bn international education industry appears to now be lacking across all states except South Australia”…

“The whole point of the states’ pilot student return plans is to show the wider Australian community that these young people can be brought back safely to resume their long-delayed studies. Now we are not even permitted to prove that this model can work…

The International Education Association estimates each student lost in the 2020-21 cohort is worth $60,000 to the Australian economy, with $2.5bn lost in ­tuition fees and a further $3.5bn lost in overall economic input.

So too is Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson:

“Uncertainty regarding when Australia’s inter­national borders will reopen makes it challenging to recruit new students to Australian institutions”…

“Students are now more than a year into this crisis and borders are still shut. No matter how resolute they are in their desire to come here, other options in countries they can enter are becoming more attractive.”

The next chart shows that student visas on issue are still tracking at their fourth highest level in history and around 50% higher than they were when the Coalition was elected in 2013:

Temporary student visas on issue.

Temporary student visas on issue remains historically high.

The bigger question is whether it is sensible to return numbers to their pre-COVID level or higher?

My view is that reduced international student numbers would be a good result as it would move Australia more into line with similarly developed nations whose concentrations of international students was less than half of Australia’s in 2017:

International students concentration

Australia’s international student concentration was extreme.

Even if Australia’s international student numbers halved, it would still have the highest concentration of foreign students in the developed world.

The costs of Australia’s extreme international student concentration are also never taken into account. These costs include the degradation of entry and teaching standards, which has badly eroded the quality of education provided to domestic students, as well as the downward pressure applied to wages (including wage theft) in the workplace.

On the erosion of pedagogical standards, honorary Deakin academic Louise Johnson provided salient insight to Fairfax:

[Johnson points] to a “cancerous” cycle of chasing foreign student fees to fund the research volumes needed for global rankings aimed at securing yet more international students.

COVID aside, she says, too much teaching is now online, impersonal, inferior and left to an increasingly casualised, overworked and exploited sessional staff…

“Some [international] students have been fabulously engaged. But I’ve also had cohorts in my class who had no idea what I was talking about, couldn’t read what I was asking them to read, and who certainly could not write in a way that I regard as university standard.”

South Australia’s Independent Commissioner Against ­Corruption (ICAC) provided a similar damning assessment.

The reality is that Australia’s universities had become key players in the edu-migration system, whereby they ‘clipped the ticket’ and earned fat fees on international students seeking work rights and permanent residency, assisted by the likes of the International Education Association.

Universities should be forced to return to their primary purpose of educating Australians, not behaving like immigration ‘middle-men’ selling low-quality degrees for maximum profit.

Halving international student numbers, so that they more accurately reflect developed country norms, is a good place to start on their path to redemption.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. I suspect the flow of international students into the country has not been completely stopped. Would love to know the numbers.

    • The real number including so called ‘partners’ on a secondary visa 65,000) & DFAT scholarships (32,000) plus those that remained in Australia but churned onto a different visa category (83,000) etc is much higher.

      Close to 640,000 foreign nationals who entered on some ‘foreign student or partner’ pretext visa.

      A drop only of about 80,000 from the peak back in about March 2020.

      Fact is what was here onshore has stayed here citing hardship or inability to return & the only decline is the growth in intake.

      The Australian Edu gov site & the DHA ABF quarterly stats have the full summary – will find & post.

      These so called foreign students are almost all third world unskilled mature adults – China, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, South East Asian, Middle East, south & Central Americas. (ABF / DHA country of origin stats)

      Less than 65,000 are attending genuine post grad education that would be comparative to say to the UK, Canada, US or other OECD countries. (Edu Gov site)

      👉🏾That’s the real comparison needed here.

      The other 575,000?

      🔹Unskilled third world mature adults on a pretext visa doing nonsense courses / often without any international accreditation or recognition.

      🔹Destroying our education system for Australians as it’s a allowed to prostitute itself as a migrant guestworker visa alibi.

      🔹Poor unskilled third world – entering Australia in loan debt to the foreign agent traffickers – only paying a minimal fee for the first semester & then all their money is earned onshore so not ‘an export at all’ – they are a massive social & economic liability.

      🔹Not attending courses at all as so called online / without funds, taking advantage of the virus to live & work illegally – stealing over 600,000 Australian jobs, (we have 1.3 million unemployed Australians and another 1.0 million seeking work… )

      🔹Stealing Australians housing, occupying over 650,[email protected] Australian beds – (where do people think they all live & how?)
      some 150,000 – 200,000 Australians dwellings in cash in hand foreign criminal run bunk share.
      Meanwhile we have over 116,000 Australian permanent homeless and another 340,000 without affordable housing.

      🔹Over 50,000 of these so called foreign students & partners are trafficked in for vice / they are the ‘product’ of the foreign run criminal & vice industry onshore.
      Legal in NSW / no health checks, no identity checks all cash in hand..

      Their impact to Australians.

      🔻Creating unemployment ($19 billion in Australian unemployed)
      🔻Reducing wages for everybody else($12 billion)
      🔻Housing contention & displacement ($4 billion)
      🔻Degrading our education ($5 billion)
      🔻Congestion, overload on public infrastructure & services etc ($5 billion)

      Total = over $35 billion cost to Australians.

      Well over 3 times their fees paid (which again is from money earned here usually illegally).

      Each and every foreign student or partner onshore negative economic & social impact cost is about -$54,000 each in cost to Australians.

      A massive impact to our standard of living for all Australians.

      • Love your work Mike. You are spot on.
        The trouble is the LNP want cheap compliant labour for their business mates.
        Labour wants more migrants because traditionally migrants vote Labour.
        University Vice- Chancellors peddle the same economic advantage of study in Australia myth because their salaries depend on it.
        Employers want cheap, compliant labour who are too scared to ask for the going rate or have a deal trading off salary for extra work hours in breach of their visa conditions
        Farmers want cheap labour to bring in the crops.
        The left think that it’s all right for foreigners to break Immigration laws.
        The media is too scared to target the overseas students scamming visa and work requirements because they don’t want to be seen as racist.
        The do-gooders won’t say anything either because of their paternalistic view that third world inhabitants are too simple to commit fraud.
        The public don’t care because it’s all too involved.
        The AFP who closed down an Immigration investigation involving thousands of visas obtained fraudulently facilitated by 5 major Indian migration agents because it was all too hard and political.
        The ABF ICE section spend most of their time on cigarette smuggling.
        The bottom line mate is that no gives a flying proverbial about the biggest scam in Australian immigration history.

        • The AFP who closed down an Immigration investigation involving thousands of visas obtained fraudulently facilitated by 5 major Indian migration agents because it was all too hard and political.

          Can’t find anything in the news on this. Do you have more details? Your list makes perfect sense. I was wondering why no one investigates companies such as Wipro, TCS, Accenture, Infosys etc. where 90% of their workers in Australia are from a single ethnic background, majority on visas. Surely those visas are being rorted, yet no one bats an eyelid least of all the government departments that should be looking into this.

    • I agree. Daniel Andrews said a few weeks back that the majority of people coming into Australia at the moment are not citizens. Apparently, the ABS per Govt instructions will no longer report citizenship status, etc of arrivals from July.

  2. Jumping jack flash

    Perhaps we can return to a federal and/or state funded model for university education, then there would be no need to rely on international student churn to fund universities?

  3. Universities should be forced to return to their primary purpose of educating Australians, not behaving like immigration ‘middle-men’ selling low-quality degrees for maximum profit.
    I agree our Universities have lost their way but it has to be said they didn’t settle on this low quality degree path without a lot of prodding and pushing from our political leaders and the Australian people.
    Every Aussie family wants to be able to say that Little Jimmy (who wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed) went to University. This wish/want does not concern itself with the quality of the Tertiary education which Little Jimmy receives, because Little Jimmy went to university is in and of itself the goal and thereby the reward.
    Maybe we don’t need top quality universities because our university graduates are no longer involved in cutting edge research or bleeding edge product development. We definitely don’t pay our STEM graduates anywhere near enough to afford to live in any of our major cities, it’s not even close.
    We all know the game plan (even if we don’t like to admit it), Little jimmy gets his Uni degree and then he starts on the tools with his Dad and his cousins
    Funding is the part of this plan that we don’t like to discus. it’s messy and involves lots of Foreign students doing similar degrees to our Little Jimmy and getting similar results (what’s the old saying P’s and C’s get degrees). Personally I say [email protected]#& (P’s and C’s) our university students need to once again strive for D’s and HD’s and WE need to reconstruct the reward systems that existed for those students who achieved excellence.
    We need to rebuild institutions like CSIRO and DSTO they need to be able to pay for the best and means paying sufficient for these graduates to live in places like Sydney’s northern suburbs.

    But that’s all a bit to complicated so Yeah lets just dramatically reduce Foreign students…That’ll fix everything ….

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      Every Aussie family wants to be able to say that Little Jimmy (who wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed) went to University.

      I am exceptionally sceptical this is something “every Aussie family wants”. “Every Aussie family” on the North Shore, maybe.

      • You obviously don’t have a diverse group of friends if that is your generalisation.

          • So am I reading this correctly?
            Am I a “snob”?
            I’ve never thought of myself as a snob, but I guess snobs probably don’t think of themselves as snobs my own opinion is probably of little value
            What do others think? Am I a snob?

          • drsmithyMEMBER

            That description was directed at people “who want to be able to say that Little Jimmy (who wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed) went to University”.

  4. Perhaps we don’t need that many people with university qualifications? Universities used to be for smart people. Now at least half the population is eligible.

  5. Where is NZ and Singapore on your chart? Both countries are competing with us for the population ponzi. Singapore has 65,000 students for a population of 5.7M, something like 1100 students per 100,000. Interesting that the ministry of education has inflated benefits like Australia.