Australia to cap foreign student enrollments

By Minh Nga   May 14, 2024 | 11:05 pm PT
Australia to cap foreign student enrollments
Students attend the University of Sydney open day in Sydney, Australia in 2018. Photo by Reuters/Paulina Duran
Australia plans to introduce caps on foreign student enrollments at universities to ensure sustainable growth and alleviate housing pressure, but experts have decried this as unnecessary.

According to the official website of the Ministers’ Media Center, the Australian government will introduce new legislation within this week to "support the integrity and sustainability of the international education sector."

It would enable the education minister to set an allocation for the maximum number of new international student enrolments schools could offer, it said.

But those that have purpose-built student housing would be permitted to exceed these limits.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the government aims for more controlled and strategic management of student numbers, especially with visa grants for international students returning to pre-pandemic levels.

"Last year our Government adopted a strategy to deliver a smaller, more strategic migration system, and these announcements today take a big step toward that goal."

Minister for Education Jason Clare said: "Our international education sector is incredibly important to our country. International students are back but so are the shonks seeking to take advantage of them."

Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, said: "...There is no place for dodgy operators who undermine the strong reputation of the sector. We are making it tougher for bottom-feeders to take advantage of international students for a quick buck."

Dirk Mulder, an expert in international education, told British magazine Times Higher Education that institutional limits already exist through the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (Cricos).

This mandatory registration allows for the monitoring of foreign student numbers, which have increased with the addition of new institutions and courses.

He questioned the necessity of addressing this issue through immigration policies rather than existing educational frameworks.

"Why are they dealing with this through the immigration portfolio when there are established mechanisms in the education portfolio that could do this without the negative publicity that Australia is currently getting overseas? The sector feels like it’s getting bushwhacked by the immigration minister."

Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, expressed a similar view while speaking to ICEF Monitor.

He said the proposed legislation aims to set a cap on the number of new foreign student admissions institutions registered under Cricos can accept.

"[This] will send all the wrong messages, yet again, of Australia’s reliability as a welcoming study destination country."

He was referring to recent revisions to financial requirements, slower visa processing and existing application backlogs.

Significant increases in student visa fees are also expected, which could further discourage prospective students and educational consultants, he warned.

Australia has since last year consistently tightened regulations for international students amid rising immigration pressures on the housing market.

The government has increased the financial proof requirements twice, raised English language requirements, and introduced a new assessment called the Genuine Student Test to ensure visas are used for studying purposes.

Universities are now categorized into three groups based on the risk level of their admissions, and visa processing at universities in levels 2 and 3 is slower compared to level 1.

Education remains a money-spinner for Australia, contributing US$47.8 billion to its economy last year, according to government data.

As of October last year it had 768,000 international students, with the largest numbers coming from China, India and Nepal. Vietnam ranked sixth, with over 31,000 students.

go to top