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King pin demands permanent residence for international students

With the federal election in the rearview mirror, chief executive of lobby group the International Education Association of AustraliaPhil Honeywood, has called on the federal government to make Australia more attractive to international students by fulfilling “the implicit promise of pathways to migration”:

A major policy area no political party has dared to address during the election campaign is a “big Australia” population policy. Yet each leader has acknowledged the dire need for additional skilled workers to support our nation’s post-Covid recovery…

On December 15 last year, our Prime Minister was quoted as saying to international students “come on down”…

Our latest Home Affairs Department visa data indicates that from mid-December last year to mid-April this year there has been a surge of students arriving from India and Nepal. Students from these two countries are well known for seeking migration outcomes from their studies.

Given our nation’s new visa policy settings, many of these young people have arrived here in the belief there is an implicit promise they are on a pathway to Australian citizenship. They have the recent example of Canada offering similar student visa settings that have culminated in the promise of migration.

Educating the wider Australian community on the benefits that accrue to our nation from overseas students and a large-scale migration policy has been thwart with difficulties for our elected representatives…

Post election, corporate Australia is ready to promote a return to a “big Australia” population policy in order to meet their urgent labor force requirements. In equal measure, there are any number of economists lining up to advise a new government that a robust migration intake will be the only feasible way to reduce our looming trillion-dollar national debt…

The danger for Australia this time is that there are many study destination countries now competing to fill both low and high skill job vacancies…

If we fail to deliver on the implicit promise of pathways to migration from our new-found “come on down” visa framework, then we will again be exposed as a nation just focused on taking short-term advantage of other countries’ young people. Let us hope the bipartisan cone of silence on migration that has prevailed over the past six weeks results in bipartisan support for a robust migration policy going forward.

The above statement by Phil Honeywood is more proof that international students are the best funnel to the nation’s immigration program. Many come here primarily for work rights and/or permanent residence, rather than to obtain an education.

In turn, Australia’s universities have become ‘middle-men’ to the immigration system, behaving like migration agents and degree factories to maximize student fees. They’ve lowered entry and teaching standards to maximize student numbers. Cheating is rife. There’s immense pressure on university staff to pass these students. And the inevitable result is a lower quality system.

Rather than bending the knee to vested interest lobbyists like Phil Honeywood, the federal government should instead acknowledge that Australians overwhelmingly do not support a return to pre-pandemic ‘Big Australia’ immigration. They also do not support international student flows returning to insane pre-pandemic levels:

Australian policy makers should instead target a smaller intake of higher quality international students by:

  • Lifting entry standards (particularly English-language proficiency);
  • Lifting financial requirements needed to enter Australia; and
  • Removing the explicit link between studying, work rights and permanent residence.

These reforms would improve student quality, since most would come to Australia for the primary purpose of studying, rather than to gain working rights with the hope of transitioning to permanent residence.

They would raise genuine export revenues per student, given tuition fees and living expenses would be paid for by funds earned from abroad, rather than from money earned within Australia.

They would remove competition in the labor market, improving job prospects for young Australians, while also reducing wage theft and exploitation.

They would also reduce enrollment numbers to sensible and sustainable levels commensurate with international norms.

Sadly, rent-seekers like Phil Honeywood are not interested in delivering a higher quality education system for Australia. They are all about maximizing student numbers and revenues, while completely ignoring the downsides.

Unconventional Economist
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