Australia rife with international student ‘ghost colleges’


Indian students are one of the primary drivers behind Australia’s record surge in net overseas migration.

After the former Coalition Government lifted the cap on international student work hours and extended the length of time VET graduates could stay in Australia after finishing their courses, the number of Indian students arriving for work and residency skyrocketed.

The Albanese government then increased permanent migrant intake to record levels, increasing the likelihood of students obtaining permanent residency.

Labor also extended post-study work rights for international university graduates (which were rescinded this month), as well as signed migration treaties with India, which promise Indians five-year student visas and eight-year post-study work visas.


These policy changes have been a ‘red rag to a bull’ for non-genuine Indian (and other) students, dodgy education agents, and scam ‘ghost colleges’ that have flourished.

The below YouTube video by creator “Half as Interesting” explores the alarming proliferation of scam ghost colleges across Australia:


“This is 190 Queen Street in Melbourne, Australia, and while it looks unassuming, it’s actually home to a solidly rated escape room and 20 schools that came to my attention because in the last few years, colleges started popping up all over Australia – colleges for ghosts”.

“[There are] hundreds of them across the country. They are there to profit off international students without teaching them much while exploiting a massive loophole in Australia’s immigration policy”…

“Australia didn’t invent squeezing money out of international students, but they sure have made an art of it, which just about brings us to ghost colleges”…

Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, warned this year that Australia’s international education system has degraded into a “Ponzi scheme” for recruiting non-genuine students through migration channels (here and here).

This echoed the claims of Labor’s federal member for Bruce, Julian Hill, who stated that Australia’s international education industry had devolved into a “Ponzi scheme” by enticing international students with easy employment rights and permanent residency.

Hilariously, the solution from outgoing university lobby chief, Catriona Jackson, was to urge Australia’s higher education sector to target students from Africa.

“I think we absolutely need to be looking at Africa because that’s where the explosion of working-age people is”, she said.


“So it’s our job as countries who have one big asset here, a really strong education system, to make sure we’re providing that in the best possible way”.

According to a recent Navitas survey on study intentions, students from India and Africa choose a study destination based on their capacity to gain work rights, a low-cost course, and permanent residency:

Issues important for international students

South Asia and Africa students care about working and migration, not education quality.


By contrast, students from these two countries care least about educational quality.

Instead of further lowering standards to attract African students, policymakers should focus on attracting a smaller pool of exceptional (true) students by raising financial barriers to entry, increasing entrance requirements (particularly for English language proficiency), and removing the clear link between studying, working, and permanent residency.

These reforms would improve student quality, increase export income per student, raise wages and working conditions in low-skilled jobs, and reduce enrolment levels to manageable and sustainable levels, thereby increasing quality and learning environments for local students while relieving population pressure.


To put it another way, international education should value quality above quantity.

Otherwise, Australia will face a repeat of the previous decade’s rampant youth unemployment, wage theft, exploitation, and overpopulation in housing and 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.