The international student boom has destroyed higher education

By Leith van Onselen

Earlier this year, the Victorian Government called for a review of entry requirements into Australian universities after growing evidence that foreign students with poor English language proficiency are badly eroding education standards as well as placing undue strain on university teaching staff.

Immediately afterwards, academics admitted to Fairfax that they had lowered teaching standards and wrongly given passes to international students in order to maintain the foreign student trade.

Even the international student association called for greater regulation of overseas migration agents amid widespread cheating on English tests to gain access to Australian universities.

Yesterday, ABC business editor, Ian Verrender, penned a telling article arguing that Australia’s degraded higher education system is leaving graduates overqualified and undersupplied:

Missing from the same lengthy plan for our future [in the Budget], however, was anything that might help shift the focus of our tertiary education system from a dollar-driven export industry back towards its original intention: institutions for higher learning to equip Australians for the future…

On paper, it sounds like an unmitigated success story. Our education system is now our third-largest export industry, behind iron ore and coal.

Last year, more than half a million foreign students — 548,000 to be exact — clamoured for a spot at our universities. A further 220,000 attend other vocational education institutions.

They’re willing to pay for the privilege. All up, foreign students spent $32 billion in fees, a more than 10 per cent increase on the previous year.

Should that trend continue, Australia will overtake the United Kingdom as the second most popular destination for international students, possibly even this year.

Almost a third of these students come from China, while India and Malaysia come in a distant second and third.

The rapid growth of Australia as a centre for global learning, however, has not been without cost.

There are accusations among academics that in the race to attract more foreign students, teaching standards have slipped, with lecturers under pressure to pass students, even those with poor language skills who clearly can’t grasp the subject material.

Diligent educators who fail too many students run the risk themselves of being considered failures who quickly are moved on.

In addition, many foreign students enrol here as a soft way to emigrate, swelling the number of local undergraduates competing for jobs and depressing wages, initially in service industries while studying for degrees and later in their professions…

The sad truth is that vast numbers of young Australians are graduating with degrees in fields such as law, journalism and psychology, and there are nowhere near enough jobs to soak up the supply. Would-be barristers instead become baristas…

Well done Ian Verrender for calling a spade a spade. Blind Freddy can see that

Australia’s universities have morphed from “higher learning” to “higher earning”, as evidenced by the massive explosion in full fee-paying foreign students:

Australia’s education system has become an integral part of the immigration industry and the ‘Big Australia’ population ponzi – effectively a way for foreigners to buy backdoor permanent residency to Australia.

After all, the lobby group representing foreign students in Australia – the Council for International Students in Australia (CISA) – point blank admitted that students come here to migrate, not because of the quality of education on offer:

The Council for International Students in Australia said foreign potential students were attracted to Australia by the possibility of migrating here.

The national president of CISA, Bijay Sapkota, said… “For people coming from low socio-economic backgrounds there has to be a value proposition. If they go home they will not get value. So there has to be a possibility of immigration.”

It’s not like these concerns haven’t been raised before. Three recent Australian reports (here, here and here) have similarly raised the alarm about the flood of international students and the degradation of standards, as has lecturer Dr Cameron Murray. And yet all have been ignored and attacked by the rent-seeking Universities Australia.

The sad reality is that Australia’s universities are little more than giant rent-seeking businesses, which clip the ticket on the deluge of foreign students arriving in the hope of transitioning to permanent residency.

Instead of focusing on providing a high quality education and upskilling Australia’s population, the universities sector has become focussed on ramming through as many students as possible in order to maximise fees and profit.

The end result has been the dumbing-down of standards and too many university graduates chasing too few professional jobs.

The main beneficiaries from Australia’s rent-seeking university system are the vice-chancellors, whose pay has exploded to an average of $1 million on the back of the torrential student flood. Meanwhile, university students are stuck paying off expensive and increasingly worthless degrees, taxpayers are stuck writing-off unpayable debts, and the broader population is suffering under the never-ending population crush.

The federal government must put a firm leash on the university sector, beginning with removing the link between international students studying at university and gaining work visas and permanent residency.

Australia’s universities must be made to compete on quality and value alone, not as export businesses offering a pathway to backdoor immigration.

SourceAAP:www.macrobusiness.com.au

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