Warning: Australia inundated with fake international students


Last year, Julian Hill, Labor’s federal member for Bruce, alleged that Australia’s international education sector had devolved into a “ponzi scheme” by attracting international students with easy work rights and permanent residency.

Hill claimed that “agents in many parts of the world who are flogging our precious student visa as some kind of cheap, low-rent work visa” were “misusing” Australia’s generous work rights and the incentive of permanent residency.

“We know that the incentive of a permanent visa to Australia is like a golden ticket from Willy Wonka’s chocolate bar”, he said.

Hill was supported by Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, the industry’s principal lobbyist.


Honeywood also labelled international education a “ponzi scheme” and a “race to the bottom”.

The SMH last month reported that dodgy migration agencies had recruited fake students with little English language proficiency to Australia to work as slaves.

The story revolved around Yongge “Henry” Qi, who came to Australia to study marketing and communication but ended up working seven days a week at a suburban car window tinting plant for $5 an hour and was fed rotten scraps.


On Friday, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) chief commissioner, Peter Coaldrake, sent a letter to higher education providers warning that there is a “significant” danger that a high proportion of international students arriving in Australia are not qualified for their courses and are not coming to study.

Coaldrake also informed that he was investigating several institutions for noncompliance with standards and that the integrity of the international education sector was at risk.

TEQSA’s “sector alert”, sent in conjunction with Professor Coaldrake’s letter, stated that it had observed escalating risk factors such as a large number of international students arriving “without appropriate qualifications or academic preparedness for their course of study” and “who are not bona-fide or will not comply with the terms of their visa”.


TEQSA also reported an increase in unethical activities by education agents, with a large proportion of freshly arrived overseas students abandoning the course they had enrolled in and shifting to so-called ‘ghost courses’ at other higher education institutions or vocational colleges.

This activity has disturbed industry experts, who claim that students enrolled in prestigious university courses are being pushed to switch to cheap, low-quality diplomas at other institutions, allowing them to stay in Australia to work.

“We now have far more education agents working closely with dodgy (education) providers to poach legitimate students into ghost courses”, said Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia.


TEQSA also informed higher education providers that it had witnessed an increase in the number of overseas students enrolling “without being provided sufficient information about their chosen provider, course, or life and study in Australia”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently signed migration agreements with India that, among other things, will grant Indians automatic five-year student visas and eight-year post-study work visas.

Therefore, the numbers of fake students seeking to work and live in Australia long-term will only grow.


Instead of clamping down on the rort by raising entry standards, Albo’s Labor has opened the door even wider.

The end result will be lower wages and productivity, more competition for rental housing, and crush-loaded infrastructure.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.