The Australian today pre-publicises a forthcoming article in People and Place that blows the cover on one of the Australian university system’s worst-kept ‘dirty secrets’. Many of the foreign students purchasing education services in Australia are in fact purchasing Australian resident immigration status not education. While we brag about our success in exporting education services the truth is that the quality of our services often are not the motivation for people studying here.
MANY overseas students believe Australian universities are little more than factories” producing permanent residency visas by offering cheap courses tailored to meet migration requirements.IT, accounting and engineering courses were among the most popular degrees for Indian students hoping to stay in Australia after their studies, according to new research.
“These factories were considered to be places that had little to do with education and much to do with migration,” the study, to be published in the Monash University journal People and Place, says.
Those institutions with the highest quota of Indians were known as “PR factories”, where students could gain permanent residency after graduation.
“Even before coming to Australia they will have figured out which courses will provide the easiest way to PR and will base the course they enrol in on this,” says the study by a University of Amsterdam PhD student Michiel Baas.
The report also found universities supported the PR model, adapting courses to encourage students to sign up.
“They (universities) freely admitted that they kept close track of changes in the the MODL (Migrant Occupation in Demand) list in order to predict which new courses would be in demand in the coming semester,” it said.
The study comes as the Howard Government considers changes to the skilled migration program that could result in new strict visa conditions for overseas students.
Australia’s universities are increasingly just not being competitive with overseas universities and are driven by deceptions such as this. The incentives to deceive are obvious when most universities face budget stringencies and when Vice-Chancellors are increasingly expected to be CEOs of profit-maximising firms rather than providers of academic leadership in institutions that deliver public as well as private goods. Governments have incentives to conceal all this since it lends credence to the lie that Australian universities are adequately funded – they can attract lots of international students. This article has potentially explosive impacts for Australian universities.