Australia plans limits on international students

SYDNEY — Australia says it will impose limits on the number of international students coming into the country to ease stress on housing and to reduce immigration.  

The government in Canberra has said that international education programs, under which foreign students come to study in Australia, were fertile ground for immigration and visa fraud.

In 2023, official figures show that 787,000 international students studied in Australia, exceeding levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canberra government plans to cap the number of overseas students to ease stress on rental accommodation and to curb levels of immigration.

Senior government ministers have said caps for education would be part of a broader plan to manage migration, increase the availability of housing and to address skills shortages in the economy.

However, the university sector has insisted the proposals would damage Australia’s global reputation as a welcoming, safe and world-class destination for students from other countries.

Education has been one of Australia’s most lucrative exports, but the left-leaning government in Canberra has said the international education sector, which includes many smaller private English language colleges, vocational and training institutions as well as larger universities, has been used as a way for unskilled migrants to stay in Australia.

Michael Wesley, the deputy vice chancellor at the University of Melbourne, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Tuesday that he hopes the government will target unscrupulous education providers.

“We welcome the crackdown on non-genuine education providers, which provide a backdoor into permanent residency for people who are not genuine students,” Wesley said. “We are confident that all of our international students are genuine students and, so, we would hope that the impact of these visa caps will be at the non-genuine end of the education sector.”

Rental accommodation in many of Australia’s larger cities is often expensive and in short supply.  

Analysts have said that surging prices are the result of years of underinvestment in affordable housing.

Education institutions would be required to build accommodations for their students if they wanted to exceed limits of the caps.  Specific quotas for international students have not yet been made public.

The government in Canberra said it will change Australia’s Education Services for Overseas Students Act to give the education minister the authority to set limits on student enrolments for each education establishment, including specific courses or locations.

The majority of overseas students in Australia come from five countries: China, India, Nepal, the Philippines and Vietnam, according to government data.  They contribute billions of dollars to the Australian economy.

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