Friday, November 19, 2010

Monthly TV - Simon Marginson on the international student crisis

Exclusive: Simon Marginson on the international student crisis

Last year there were over 600,000 international students in Australia, but the sector is now in crisis due to the series of incidents of violence against Indian students as well as the major changes to Australia's migration laws and the growing strength of the Australian dollar. Australia is the only developed nation that now has falling numbers of international students. Professor Simon Marginson (Higher Education, University of Melbourne) speaks to SlowTV's Nick Feik about the impact this will have on a higher education system that has come to rely heavily on its international student income. November 2010.

Click here to watch the interview

Duration: 29m 23s

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Exodus - Margaret Simons on the International Student Sector (The Monthly, November 2010)

This month, Margaret Simons has provided us with her opinion and some insightful information about the current situation of the international education sector in Australia.

The Baird review (Baird, 2009) has made a major impact and confirmed what everybody should have been aware of long before: There is something severely wrong with the way international education is institutionalised through the co-operation with immigration authorities:

'In May 2005, under the watch of the former Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone and Minister for Education Brendan Nelson, the number of occupations on the MODL was greatly expanded to include many comparatively low skilled occupations including cooking and hospitality. Already there were opportunitst in the marketplace. Now they boomed. Dodgy colleges sprang up all over the country. Never before had there been so many opportunities to study hairdressing, cooking and hospitality in Australia, and never before had so many young people from overseas wanted to learn to become cooks and waiters here.

The Federal Government had delegated regulation of private vocational colleges to State Government. They failed at the task. Some colleges barely disguised the fact they were facades for immigration ambitions. Most worryingly of all there were reports of scams in which overseas agents worked with colleges, landlords and employers to bring students to Australia and provide them with work, accommodation and notional study, all on the promise of eventual residency - and with the student being exploited at every step.'

All this was only possible, because students were not enlightened about their rights and duties. If they would complain about housing conditions or low wages and long work, they were threatened to be sent back to their home country (Stewart & Sales, 2010).

 It is not only the international education system that is flawed. In my opinion the problem lies deeper. Australia has a history of micro management. Things that should be managed on a national scale are managed by state and each state has a different way to do so. The Melbourne public transport system is divided into several sub divisions, some of them indusry, some of them state government run (rails, signals, coaches, everything in seperate hands). Another great example is the Murray Darling water management that is shared by New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Private vocational colleges are managed by state government, while immigration is managed nationally. The problem with micro management is that all parties involved are busy engaging with their own responsibilities, but not seeing the effect their management has on follow-up processes. This is why Immigration did not see the impact the MODL list and it's promise to provide PR had on the international education system. Neither immigration nor the international education system took control of the further development of graduates after PR was granted. As a result hairdressing and cooking stayed on the MODL list until it was replaced by the SOL list in July 2010, although the number of students continuily grew at an average 12% per years since 1990. So what happened with the new graduates granted a Permanent Residence? One opportunity is that they were so badly trained that there was no chance to gain a decent job in their field of study, another was that they would work in a completely different field, as long as they actually found work.

The damage is done and it will be a major effort to further separate the remaining dodgy businesses from the ethical. A first step has been made, detaching immigration from international education. In my opinion there will be no way around further drops in international student numbers. But instead of putting out poorly trained international graduates at factory numbers, a higher quality international education system with smaller numbers of better qualified international students will not only effectively help Australian industry meet there skills demand, but also help students returning to there country of origin, occupying leadership positions, thanks to the education they received in Australia. 

This would be an opportunity for Australia to regain her reputation as a first class destination for international education and also to compete against the UK, the USA and up and coming China, which is currently establishing her own international education system (Australian Government, 2006).  

Australian Government, E. I. (2006). The International Education Market in China. Canberra: Australian Education International. Retrieved from

Baird, B. (2010). Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 Review. Retrieved September 15th, 2010, from

Stewart, J. (Reporter), & Sales, L. (Presenter). (2010). Overseas students still face exploitation, Lateline [Television series]. Melbourne, Vic: ABC Television. Transcript retrieved September 15th, 2010, from:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Skills go to the top of the List (The Australian, November 10th, 2010)

In todays The Australian, Higher education Sector there is a report (Lane & Sainsbury, 2010) upon the points system for skilled migrants that notoriously preferred hairdressers over Harvard scientists to be abolished. 
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is scheduled to announce in Sydney tomorrow (November 11th, 2010) a new points system in keeping with wider reforms to skilled migration.


Lane, B. and Siansbury, M. (2010). Skills go to the top of the List. The Australian, Higher Education. Retrieved from

International Students: The billion dollar industry

International Students: The billion dollar industry

Student Migration-Studying in Australia: Education Sector Warns Of Impending Devaluation

Student Migration-Studying in Australia: Education Sector Warns Of Impending Devaluation

Study in Australia: Migration Changes 2010

Study in Australia: Migration Changes 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Comment: The Permanent Residency Rort

The Permanent Residency Rort
By Martin Davies

Martin Davis discusses the issue of so called institutionalized education. The problem was that international students only had to graduate in a course, targeting the Skills in Demand List provided by the Department of Immigration and Internal Affairs (DIMIA), to be eligible for applying for permanent residency. Some private education institutes and their immigration agents used this institutionalisation to guarantee international students permanent residency in Australia. While this didn't help industry to fill the gap, the biggest problem for students, mainly from India and China was that they were not enlightened about rights and duties. Another door opened for a secondary industry following behind the education sector to exploit international students, mostly in terms of jobs and housing.
Although Davies’ article was published in March 2010, the issue has been followed up already by the Baird Review on the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 (Baird, 2009). One of the most significant findings confirms Davies’ argument about visa factories and exploitation. They are also discussed in more detail in a Senate hearing on student welfare, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Senior Industrial Officer, Michelle Bissett (The Senate, 2009a) and Andrew John Bartlett (The Senate, 2009b), Research Fellow in the Migration Law Program at the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra commenting on the issue. Their findings: Immigration agents should be held accountable for providing international students in Australia with sufficient information about rights and duties. Also immigration and education should be split into separate entities to avoid further institutionalization of the Australian education sector.


Baird, B. (2010, February).Stronger, simpler, smarter ESOS:
supporting international students. Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000. Retrieved from

Senate (2009a, September 18th). Welfare of International Students. Official Committee Hansard, 2-8. Retrieved from

Senate (2009b, September 18th). Welfare of International Students. Official Committee Hansard, 9-20. Retrieved from