Abul Rizvi: Tighten international student visa requirements

Abul Rizvi – former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and one of the architects of Australia’s faux ‘skilled’ migration program – has urged policy makers to tighten international student visa requirements to boost student quality and productivity:

As the government faces pressure to bring overseas students back into the country, if it wants a high-quality education sector it should be wary of those only interested in maximising student numbers and short-term profits…

Prior to the onset of COVID-19, overseas students represented more than 40 per cent of net overseas migration…

Overseas students and temporary graduates who secured permanent residence represented around 25 per cent of the migration program in 2020-21 (see Chart 2). However, this significantly underestimates the number of students who actually secured permanent migration as it does not include students who used other visa types before they secured permanent residence (eg skilled temporary entry, working holiday, visitors, other temporary employment).

If these other visa types are taken into account, the student contribution to the migration program would be closer to 35 per cent…

The public policy risks associated with the overseas student program have remained much the same since the export of education industry started in the mid-1980s. These include:

  • Large numbers of students being left in long-term immigration limbo, predominantly because they have undertaken courses that are not in demand…
  • Students with inadequate English language skills or general aptitude to do the course they have enrolled in.
  • Students with inadequate finances which means they become heavily reliant on employment well beyond the 40 hours per fortnight traditionally allowed (prior to recent changes allowing almost unlimited work rights). This makes students more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse as well as not having sufficient time to study for their course. It also drives down wages and conditions for the low skilled work that students traditionally do (eg if an employer can get a vulnerable overseas student for less than the minimum wage, why employ an Australian who may insist on their rights?).
  • Less reputable education providers becoming involved in a race to the bottom as essentially visa factories offering cheap courses with minimal study requirements to enable students to work in low paid jobs for long hours.
  • Education providers becoming dependent on students from a narrow range of source countries and are thereby vulnerable to either a fall in demand from that source country or any tightening of student visa regulations.

The pressure on Tudge and Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to ignore these risks will be intense given the financial losses the international education industry has suffered during the pandemic and its desperation to recover its losses.

The international education industry… will be baying for student visa requirements to be “streamlined” in the interests of “cutting red tape” and allowing student numbers to increase rapidly.

Historically, that has meant Home Affairs/Immigration devolving student visa requirements for English language and financial capacity testing to education providers, who in turn devolve these to offshore education agents…

Tudge and Hawke must make it clear the government will strongly enforce the range of other protections against the well-known risks to the overseas student program, including strict English language and financial capacity testing.

The government should revert to the 40 hour per fortnight limit on work rights as soon as possible (including stricter enforcement of the requirement). Maintaining the current almost unlimited work rights trashes the reputation of Australia’s international education industry.

If Tudge and Hawke truly believe in a high-quality international education industry, they would be wise to proceed cautiously and avoid the many spruikers and urgers who are only interested in maximising student numbers and short-term profits.

For once I mostly agree with Abul Rizvi. The loud push by vested interests in the edu-migration and business lobbies to ramp-up international student numbers and immigration will pressure the government to lower entry standards. Doing so would be disastrous for the long-run productivity and prosperity of Australia, which hinges upon quality education.

As noted by The Australian’s higher education shill, Tim Dodd:

“Too many of the expanding numbers of students from India and the sub continent were in low quality, generic business courses, and hoping for permanent residency without having in-demand skills”.

Instead of lowering standards even further, Australia’s international education system should target a smaller intake of higher quality students via:

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

These reforms would lift student quality, would raise genuine export revenues per student, would remove competition in the jobs market, and would lower enrolment numbers to sensible and sustainable levels that are more in line with international norms.

They would also help to improve teaching standards and the experience for domestic students, which should be our universities’ number one priority.

In short, international education needs to become a genuine export industry rather than a people importing immigration industry.

We must restore Australia’s universities back to being about ‘higher learning’ rather than ‘higher earning’.

Sadly, we all know these reforms won’t happen. Our policy makers will instead crater entry and teaching standards to entice as many warm bodies to Australia as they can get. The ‘growth lobby’ demands it and pulls the policy strings.

Unconventional Economist


  1. Wilhelm Von WobblecockMEMBER

    I wonder if the government will subsidise our costs of moving to Europe if they want to destroy our living standards further!

  2. Sheesh. Yet another “Road to Damascus” moment from someone who has left the position of power. Wish they saw the light sooner.

    • You’re dreaming.
      Rizvi was only a DepSec (there’s currently 9 in Immigration) and he’s been out of the department for 15 years.
      He must have mates in the media,
      The 40 hour week requirement won’t be enforced. Compliance was emasculated after the Rau and Alvarez publicity.
      Nobody will say anything about the Indians, Nepalese and the sleeper group, Brazilians rorting the visa system because to do so is currently seen as being racist.
      I could go on but what’s the point.
      Both sides of politics just want lots of warm bodies, whether they’re paying income tax or not or sending vast sums offshore doesn’t seem to matter..

  3. My understanding is that institutions themselves have the responsibility for ensuring admission and visa processes, and compliance, especially higher education and universities in particular (granted privileges some years ago); probably in need of some deeper behavioural research versus reliance upon headline data.

    • You assume they don’t know what’s going on – of course they know, they just don’t care.

  4. It all needs a Royal Commission.
    Every visa category, TR, SCV, visitor, tourist etc is corrupted. And now with the border closures & opening up of Australia post pandemic – what better time to review the migrant intake, border control & visa corruption & clean it all up.

    Let’s examine the 2 big lies being currently promoted across the media.
    1. There is a skill shortage.
    2. The (TR/SCV) migrants went back.

    Firstly tho, an aside.
    Fake vaccination certificates (electronic & paper including mygov details which don’t require Medicare as the TR generally cant get that) are now $40 in Lakemba.

    In very high demand by the migrants.

    Why? – they need vaccination certification to match what is often a number of falsified identities they use to live & work illegally. Including working in health care, wholesale & retail, transport & so on. Others also reject vaccination on ideological grounds, or believe the vaccine is a western plot to sterilise them.

    So – short of police & army public transport & road checkpoints, building by building searches & white vans seizing the migrants off the street or in their workplace to to do identity verification & antibody tests…
    … We will continue to have a huge migrant unvaccinated underworld in Sydney & Melbourne acting as a virus incubation & transmission vector to Australians.

    Foreign students / comment.
    One would think with many jobs & especially education moving to be ‘online’ / there is now zero case for the physical importation of almost exclusively third world slum clearance & rurals mature adults on a pretext to be in Australia for an ‘Australian education’ – the majority doing nonsense 8 year old English or 11 year old high school level education packaged up as ‘certificates & diploma’s’ – with no international recognition.
    In fact only a small fraction of these ‘foreign students’ are doing what is internationally recognised genuine post graduate higher education.

    The fact also is that for the third world target audience for Australian international education – they do not have the money or incentive to consume Australian education services in their home country.

    As many failed ventures in trying to establish Australian education services offshore have showed. Our intake is the bottom of the barrel third world slum or rural poor. They simply would not qualify or be able to pay for US, UK or other country education services.

    So what comes into Australia is a carefully curated & filtered bottom of the barrel intake procured & trafficked by foreign criminal syndicates. An entire Chinese Hukou internal illegal underclass, Indian slum dwellers & rurals, whole Nepalese villages, end of life vice workers & their pimps from north & South Asia, the spawn of the San Paulo criminal class, the Middle Eastern, Bangla & Pakistani criminals & misfits, the Euro trash & so on.
    (Go visit a international education campus)

    Australian international education’s only purpose is to provide a visa alibi for these third world migrants to live & work here illegally. They aren’t here for an education.
    That’s why they only have a 3.9% progression rate into a professional high income vocation. (Migrant Pathways A Decade On Report 2015) – that’s right 96% fail to be anything, remaining unskilled useless, and if PR on welfare & unemployed as well as working illegally in the migrant cash economy. Human capital value = zero.

    The typical ‘foreign students & partners’ will only pay the first semester upfront & even is borrowed like their airfare & other costs. Then once in Australia, they are set to live & work illegally, many in foreign criminal run enterprises & tens of thousands in vice.
    To repay that foreign criminal trafficker debt.
    To send back remittances.
    To fail/churn the nonsense courses & then visa categories to extend their stay.
    To try to secure a PR, the coveted Centrelink & Medicare. Then if granted a PR, to get the cash back or debt relief from the foreign agent procurer as they sponsor in another third world migrant.
    No PR / visa runs out? Off to the appeals tribunal as over 360,000 have done to get a guaranteed 5 year plus extension with work rights.

    Back to the big questions being answered here.

    Is there a skills shortage?
    Is there record low employment?
    Is there a surge in new jobs?
    It appears not.

    How many non Australian third world temporary migrants are still onshore?
    Did their numbers really decline?
    Now focus here on the long stay ‘semi permanent long term stay categories’ who are the main villains in stealing Australian jobs & housing.
    It also appears no, they didn’t. They are still here.
    And now these migrant guestworkers onshore are a major barrier to Australians being able to be employed (less jobs) or having affordable housing etc.

    Lie number #1. ‘Australian skills shortage’ so we need more migrants & a media barrage of misinformation that ‘Australia is now denuded of migrant guestworkers leading to labor & skills shortages’

    The ABS says Unemployment is only 4.1%.
    We all know that’s a fabricated lie.
    Roy Morgan says that 8.7% of Australians are unemployed. More than double the ABS.
    October 03 2021 Finding No. 8812

    The latest Roy Morgan data shows 1.27 million Australians unemployed in September 2021 for an unemployment rate of 8.7%, with under-employment of 8.0% (1.16 million).

    Total unemployed or underemployed is 2.43 million or 16.6% non employed.

    More importantly the Australian Workforce jobs are only 14.57 million, below pre-lockdown level in June 2021.

    So the first big lie exposed.
    172,000 less jobs than before & we have nearly 9% unemployed!

    Given a residual of say half a million unemployed who just won’t or can’t work – that still leaves about 2 million Australians / PR unemployed or underemployed.
    And with less jobs & record unemployment.

    Yet we have nearly 2 million non Australian third world migrants onshore on pretext visas. Overshoot from pre virus times.

    We have a ‘one for one situation’
    One third world migrant on a pretext visa onshore living & working illegally stealing an Australian job & housing for every one Australian unemployed or underemployed.

    The media lie we have a shortage of migrant guestworkers needs to be exposed.
    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Lie number #2
    ‘The migrants went back’.
    The temporary resident numbers overall – particularly the categories of those who are long stay Temporary visas has not declined.
    They didn’t go back. They used the virus, border closures, didn’t attend classes, increased their illegal work hours & then visa churn to stay in Australia.

    The so called foreign student & partner intake is now fragmented across a number of visa categories or they have churned onto protection and other visa categories.
    But they are still here in Australia- living & working illegally. See the category detail.
    The only real decline in TR migrants was of about 600,000 in ‘long stay & repeat visitors’ then offset by huge surge in churn onto protection & other visas.

    Fact / detail.

    Comparative numbers.
    Dec 2019 to September 2021.
    🔹SCV was 668,687 now 672,659 -3,972
    Much the same number but if masks the continuing trend of aged genuine NZ born returning back to NZ offset by a huge increase & majority of SCV grants to non NZ Asians & Indians to use NZ as an entry point into Australia.

    🔹Students was 480,543 now 377,785 -102,668
    This hides the real number being closer to 580,000 who are now on ‘other visa categories’ as well as partners & so on on secondary visas, or DFAT & other non DHA categories.

    🔹Skilled was 119,160, now 104,333 -14,827
    Always marginal & a marginal reduction.
    We don’t have a skilled intake. Over 2 million of the non Australian migrants are on an unskilled visa category. Most of the skilled are not skilled either, usually on a cash back deal by the employer with falsified skills by the migrant (aka Gladys/Darryl)

    🔹Visitors was 635,109, now is 28,741 -606,368
    Here is the biggest reduction, the Chinese, south East Asians & Indians coming in on long stay or repeat stay visitor visas to live & work illegally. Or in ‘Medicare tourism’ (all those bus loads of elderly Chinese & Indians) to avail themselves of Australian Medicare & then PBS drugs to fund their trip using a borrowed or frauded Medicare identity.

    🔹Bridging was 119,655, now 359,981 so +240,326. Up nearly quarter of a million.
    Exploding as their visas expire or they churn onto this racket to extend their stay.

    🔹’Other’ 300,143 210,796 -89,347
    Still a huge number 210,000 made up of a splendid array of niche visa categories – all corrupted.

    And in the 2020 total we can add Temp visa now granted PR to join the conga line for welfare (167,432 grants so +167,432)

    I haven’t added overstayers (+70,000) or DFAT & scholarship/ trade visa bribes & gifting but that’s another (+35,000) or +105,000 in addition.

    Totals (offical DHA visa categories- doesn’t include DFAT or overstayers)

    Dec 2019 2,203,543
    Oct 2021 1,921,727
    Actual reduction onshore -281,816
    And almost of that in the 600,000 plus reduction of illegal working ‘long & repeat stay visitor’ category.
    Other visa categories stayed much the same or went up.

    Cross check.
    Temporary visa holders ABS/DHA table
    Non Australians on TR / SCV – doesn’t include long & repeat stay ‘visitors’ as the Scanlon website does.