Does Australia owe foreign students a job?

Population Ponzi and foreign student articles are back in the mainstream media this week as the Morrison Government prepares to resume an open borders policy. The ABC is leading:

Australia’s education sector at a crossroads to keep its place in the global market

By business reporter Samuel Yang

A woman in a floral shirt looking sad in a backyard.
Zarana Patel never thought her decision to study in Australia could turn into a seven-year struggle.

The 26-year-old came to Australia from India as an international student in 2014 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting three years ago.

Ms Patel said, although she was satisfied with the education, she has been struggling to find a professional job due to her visa status and lack of work experience.

“International students are making efforts, we have gained knowledge and skills [from university] and still you are being rejected just based on you are not a permanent resident or citizen here,” she told The Business.

“Whatever I have to do to fulfil all the requirements, I have done that, but as the government is making strict rules regarding permanent residency here, I don’t see any hope.”

Ms Patel said she didn’t feel appreciated in Australia, so she decided to pack up and move to Canada for her further study and a better future.

A survey by IDP Connect shows a growing number of international students are choosing Canada, the UK and the US over Australia to study.

Zarana, and the author of this article, appear to be of the view that granting people a student visa to study in Australian universities comes with a job attached.

It would be nice to hear from our Prime Minister, the opposition leader and immigration and education spokespersons from every political party on this question. Does Australia owe international students employment?

Other questions arise. How many like Zarana are there are in the community? What impact does this have on local job prospects?

Back to the ABC:

A chart demonstrates study trends

Australia’s global share of demand dropped from 17 per cent to 12 per cent over the past two years.

In the Indian market, Australia’s market share more than halved, from 20 per cent to 9 per cent during the same period.

Among 3,650 respondents from 55 countries, 39 per cent of the students chose Canada as their first choice destination, followed by the USA and UK (both on 17 per cent) and Australia on 16 per cent.

Nearly half of the students surveyed had considered Australia as an option, which was level with the UK but well behind Canada’s 69 per cent.

The study found migration incentives, employment opportunities and on-campus study were strong drivers in students’ decision making.

The author loads up a chart of international students destination countries from September 2019 to October 2021.  This suggest students are almost half as likely to look at Australia over that period.

Weirdly enough if one looks at a range of charts over a period since circa 2002 then one finds Australia has had about the world’s most explosive growth in foreign students, and, pre-Covid, about the heaviest concentration of foreign students vis the local population in the world.

International student concentration
Temporary visa holders
Temporary student visas on issue.
Why Australia attracts so many international students - MacroBusiness
Chinese international students flee Australia - MacroBusiness

These charts show the dynamic….. Has Zarana had a bad deal?

The question the author doesn’t want to go near is ‘Is having international students in the country, particularly if we owe them a career in their chosen field in our country after they study here, in Australia’s national interest, or in the interests of Australians?’

There is now ample evidence, including tonnes from people just like Zarana mentioned above, to suggest that

  • these people aren’t simply coming to Australia for an education
  • these people are often motivated to choose Australia as a place to study in the expectation they will get the opportunity to stay in Australia.
  • they often do not easily get careers in the fields they study in Australia
  • they often take positions in other sectors
  • the effect of them taking whateve work they can get, in order to stay in Australia, is that they depress incomes of Australians

In a nutshell the real question to place in front of our politicians is ‘Do we owe foreign students coming to Australia for an education, a career in their chosen field in Australia?’

Back to the ABC:

Students looking for opportunities elsewhere

Like Ms Patel, many international students came to Australia not only for the quality of its education system, but also for potential migration pathways.

A woman holds a pink mug in the kitchen.
Zarana Patel says she regreted coming to Australia to study.(ABC News: John Gunn)

As the COVID-19 pandemic saw the country shut its borders, nearly 150,000 international students have been stuck overseas.

Many onshore students felt the pinch as they missed out on government subsidies while also losing their jobs, and being unable to return home.

While she was studying, Ms Patel worked as a cleaner in Western Sydney to make a living while paying for tuition fees and the high costs of applying for permanent residency, including English exams that cost her a total of $8,000.

“The education system is really good in both Australia and Canada. But the thing is, after study the opportunities are really fewer, I would say, in Australia than Canada.”

She said many of her cohort have changed their minds and are heading to countries with open borders, face-to-face classes and less restrictive immigration policies.

This year, international student numbers have dropped by 17 per cent, according to the latest data from the Department of Education.

We are back with Zarana who is quite openly acknowledging what the education lobby doesn’t want to, namely that ‘students’ come here for residency and fund their stay in Australia through local employment – which means much of the notion of ‘education exports’ is right out the window. Australia’s education sector is also a net burden on many working Australians.  The desperation of such people to work in Australia has the effect of suppressing incomes and working conditions – and some Australian employers like that additional desperation factor.  This dynamic underlines the importance of face to face classes in ensuring a physical presence too.

Zarana is referring to people who have been here 10 and 15 years.  That is a long time to be suppressing incomes of locals and fits quite nicely with the idea that the population Ponzi kicked off circa 2005.

Zarana thinks employment opportunities may be better in Canada.  Maybe Zarana should go to Canada and find out?  Would Zarana want to go to Canada if the Canadians didn’t have employment opportunities?  Should Zarana be allowed to remain in Australia if we don’t have employment opportunities?

And then we have the education/migration agents chiming in:

Uncertainty over Australia’s global position

It’s a worrying trend for education agent Vaibhav Patel.

A man in suit stand at a reception.
Vaibhav Patel says international students are shifting to countries with welcoming student visa policies and migration policies.(ABC News: John Gunn)

He runs an education agency in Sydney, recruiting international students, especially from South Asia.

His business relies on international students, and it has dropped 80 per cent in overseas recruitment since COVID struck.

“I believe that there was a time, before pandemic, when Australia was one of the top countries for sourcing international students, now that choice is changing,” he told the ABC.

“The biggest fear is that if [international] students start liking going to those countries, if Australia loses its position in the education market.”

The next gentleman in the piece is an immigration middle-man.  He brings people from their (and maybe his) homeland seeking lives in Australia, and promotes university courses, clipping their tickets along the way.  Does he line them up jobs, and have an ’employment agency’ on the side, and clip their tickets this way too?  Does he line them up abodes and clip them that way? Who knows.  But if he isn’t there will be someone who will, and it would be worth knowing who that someone is.

He has found business more difficult since the closed border of Covid.  He can’t wait for the borders to open next week so he can resume force feeding aspirational Australian residents masquerading as students down the throats of a goose known as Australia.  He talks his book.

Then we have the lobby group for Australian universities also talking its book:

The peak body for the tertiary education sector, Universities Australia, believes that Australia hasn’t lost its appeal, but argues it must act quickly in the coming months to maintain its market position.

“I think it would be a mistake to say, in any sense, there’s been an exodus from Australia, because international students have stuck really well,” CEO Catriona Jackson told the ABC.

A woman wears a red face mask standing in an office.
Catriona Jackson says the sector is “tough and resilient”.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

“Other countries have responded very intelligently, they’ve loosened up some of their work rights criteria, their borders have been open.

“If we don’t keep up, if we don’t get students back at scale by first semester next year, it is really hard for us to maintain our position.”

Australian universities are no longer about providing educations for Australians but about maximising profit in order to fund Vice Chancellor and Executive salaries.  They find that this is maximised by selling foreign nationals an Australian education with a nod and wink suggesting they can slip into Australia no questions asked, work while they are here and stay on as long as they like.  They have found there are plenty of takers, and payers, for that right.

They are averse to asking Australians if that is what they want their universities doing, or if that makes for a best possible education for Australian children.

Their chief is concerned Australia didn’t bring in boatloads of students last week, or last month or even a year ago.

Back to the ABC:

The first batch to return after a long wait

Mr Patel said it’s understandable why some students chose to leave or changed course.

“It’s super frustrating, because you can’t really give your client clear advice on what’s going to happen because the policies keep changing according to the outbreaks in the country,” he said.

“It was really hard for us to convince our clients that we are doing something for you, but then there’s nothing much that is in our control.”

There have been calls for a travel ban exemption for international students to re-enter over the past year. Some have given up hopes of returning, others have graduated without ever setting foot on campus.

Our aspirational student migration agent explains there are difficulties selling his services when borders are closed.  In this he shares existence with all Australians and virtually every person on the planet.

But don’t worry, the precious population Ponzi will soon be restored:

That will change soon.

New South Wales and Victoria have promised to bring back international students through pilot programs from next month.

Up to 250 students will be allowed to arrive each fortnight in NSW, starting from December 6, and 120 students each week in Victoria from later that month.

Both states will not require international students to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated with a TGA-recognised vaccine.

A spokesperson from the South Australian government told the ABC that the state would welcome international students back once it reached its 90 per cent fully vaccinated target.

“We continue to work with the federal government to find ways for international students to return to South Australia as quickly and safely as possible,” the spokesperson said.

For some universities, two-thirds of their revenue is generated from international students…

Australian universities transformed three decades ago from educational institutions to international aspirational demographic shift facilitation institutions head by ostentatiously paid executives – with full time administrative staff and casual and temporary academic staff. They shunt the proceeds of their operations into the major cities as that is where migrants disguising themselves as students would like to live – as opposed to living where they would like to be educated.

They would like to have their part of the population Ponzi back.

Back to the ABC:

A glimmer of hope for 2022

As Australia’s international borders start reopening, universities and education agents say they are optimistic for the 2022 academic year, and eager to get back into the field recruiting again.

“[International students] create global connectivity for our [local] students that’s vital to their future careers, and they also add a lot to the local economy.”

With a high vaccination rate and currently controlled COVID situation, some students have been able to enjoy a sense of normalcy on campus for a while.

A woman on campus smiling to camera.
Charle Darwin University student Po Yan Wong says she’s lucky to study in Australia.(ABC News: Michael Donnelly)

“I have all the classes face to face, and of course I can choose to go online,” Hong Kong international student Po Yan Wang, who arrived in the Northern Territory late last year through the first charted flight, told the ABC.

“I enjoy networking and also I get the chance to participate in the events that are organised by the university.

That does provide a glimmer of hope for many students to come.

Right at the end of the piece the author seems to have recalled that he should link in some sort of benefit for local students from the population Ponzi (students).  ‘Global connectivity’ is his angle, presumably someone will get in touch to let him know that the world has progressed to using Zoom and Microsoft teams or whatever during the great Covid experience.

He also wants to highlight the travel opportunities of well paid Australian university chancellors being opened up as travel becomes possible.  The University of Wollongong VC already has his flights booked – and we can assume that somewhere there is a first class hotel and some top shelf restaurants looking at giving the tills a workover on his behalf. We can hardly wait.

We conclude with a Hong Kong student in Darwin (for whom we can have some sympathy owing to the tender mercies of China’s approach to local students) who is happy to be in Darwin and feels safe there.   That student may not get the opportunity to write a piece in the SCMP or Caixin there as they prefer stories that Chinese students in Australia are buckling under our racism and xenophobic menace.  But for the here and now – notwithstanding a big raft of questions Australian education visas and the motives of people coming to Australia on them – we can be happy for that student……but hope she doesn’t go into the water at the wrong place and wrong time!

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  1. IronorebustMEMBER

    Well said. The great big fraud occurring in plain sight with so many snouts in the trough. Gee this country is heading down the toilet at a rapid pace.

  2. > The next gentleman in the piece is essentially a people smuggler

    Bahahahaha… so thats where our boat people went. Australia employed em.

    > Our aspirational student migration smuggler explains there are difficulties selling his services when borders are closed.

    So people smugglers are the modern equivalent of drug dealers? Im guessing we are also talking s*x trafficking as well? How much does it cost for an underage girl to be trafficked in for ‘services’ I wonder?

    > Does Australia owe foreign students a career in Australia?

    Sounds like we already have. This country is so corrupt.

    I heard a rumour a while back that we only have the capability of checking 15% of packages and crates coming into Australia. I’ve heard a few stories of ‘unopened’ crates that where pushed to the side to avoid investigations. Someone who reported it ended up having there job transferred and forced to move interstate to avoid prosecution. Rather then go after the carriers of illicit goods, they went after the employee instead.

    Our border security is corrupt. I think a part of it is we dont have the manpower.

    So it begs the question, do we actually have the manpower to protect our borders from migration? Im betting we dont.

    • If we cant protect our own borders then how are we expected to fight a war with China? Not going to happen.

    • GonzificusMEMBER

      I was told by an acquaintance in Customs that 15% is correct. He also told me of opening up a sea container only to find (as well as the normal cargo) x-rays of the full sea container inside. Someone a the packing end has x-rayed the container to see what it looked like in cross section. My acquaintance also told me how a potential smuggler would avoid detection, and it wasn’t very sophisticated but is effective.

    • Mathias,

      I doubt it’s even 15%, but that’s unlikely to be any worse than most countries. I also think. as was the case back in 2000 that it isn’t boat people who are the problem, but the 20,000 people pa who overstay their visa, who actually flew here!

      If we have a problem protecting our country because of what you think is an issue, then how is China to defend its border considering when I was in HK smuggling high-end cars, Australian crayfish etc was big business to avoid paying Chinese import duties.

  3. Gunna, see if you can find the original version of the ABC article. My memory of it was Ms Patel complained about being unable to get work in accounting (her degree) with a lack of local work experience and her Visa status. The article also stated she was going to Canada for further university studies.

  4. Student visas should have no work rights and no direct link to PR.
    Happy to take a small proportion on scholarship so the brightest of the poor get a leg up.

  5. I’d like to know how much welfare was paid to international studnets who lost their jobs during the last lockdown. It was kept hush hush that it was even happening, so i suspect we will never find out.

    Also, it’s about time we heard in the msm, rom people opposed to our uncapped international student policy and their reasons why.

  6. Will our Govt be contacting their Govt’s equivalent of Medicare to find out their vaccination status, or are we just going to accept any old certificate?

  7. Zarana should take her new skills and employ them in the country where she came from.
    She has an obligation to her country of birth (as do all those third worlders, eg doctors/nurses).

    • Muttafukaburrasaurus.MEMBER

      Agreed, we steal foreign trained citizens for our health services (particularly) then don’t bother training Australians.
      Re-introduce scholarships for Australian citizens, which waiver all uni fees in return for equal time working rural/ remote.
      How are 3rd world countries expected to progress without a professional component of their population?
      Citizenship is a birth right, not a lifestyle choice or profit motive for the likes of pimp Patel.

  8. US: 24.88%
    Canada: 21.52%
    UK: 20.91%
    Australia: 11.61%

    Total: 78.92% of “global demand”

    I wonder what all 4 of these countries have in common?

  9. Ghost of Stewie Griffin

    Good article and commentary. Nice dissection of a hopelessly conflicted ABC article. The ABC really has become an enemy of the Australian people.

  10. Jevons ghostMEMBER

    “New South Wales and Victoria have promised to bring back international students through pilot programs from next month.
    Up to 250 students will be allowed to arrive each fortnight in NSW, starting from December 6, and 120 students each week in Victoria from later that month.
    Both states will not require international students to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated with a TGA-recognised vaccine.
    A spokesperson from the South Australian government told the ABC that the state would welcome international students back once it reached its 90 per cent fully vaccinated target.”

    My current understanding is that “fully vaccinated” means that if you come in contact with that pesky ol’ virus you are less likely to become seriously ill when it infects you. Fine. But apparently “vaccination” does not prevent you from carrying the virus and spreading it to others. So requiring persons coming into the country to be “fully vaccinated” against the SARS-CoV-2 virus as a means to halting transmission here seems to be a rather pointless exercise. Although as noted above, immunisation against SARS-CoV-2 does appear to lessen the overall burden of illness amongst those immunised . I understand that SARS-CoV-2 infection rates in the Northern hemisphere are likely to increase during their cooler months, beginning now. So it follows that by opening our borders to “fully vaccinated” foreign students, workers and immigrants again we shall not be able to contain an accelerated spreading of the virus and an increased burden of illness amongst Australians when any benefits that may have resulted from current “full vaccination” of our resident population wear off. So expect a new series of lockdowns in 2022.