I read a very interesting letter printed in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning
Within the letter a chap by the name of Michael Jones writes about the strong link between overseas students studying in Australia and perminant Australian residency. He also points out that the $16 billion education industry, our third largest export earner, is largely about selling visas, not education. Very strong words indeed!
Now the thing is… Does he have a point?
I think for starters it’s fair to say that there is indeed a very strong link. Afterall, anyone applying for permanent residency under the skilled migration program needs to show acceptable qualifications and 12 months’ recent, full-time, skilled employment. On the other hand, those with an ‘Australian qualification’ can, after only two years’ study in Australia, qualify for a permanent visa without any work experience, or any intention to work in their field of study.
Overseas, agents for the “education providers” spruik their wares with scant regard for the education needs of potential students. Education is not what they sell. They openly advertise their products as paths to permanent residence.
I am sure this is behind a lot of the anger and frustration of the students recently hitting the global headlines due to their protests here in Australia. They are mostly decent young men and women, in a strange land, away from direct parental control for the first time, and with an enormous weight of family expectations. The immigration rules require them to attend 80 per cent of classes and not to work more than 20 hours a week, or risk losing their visa – a catastrophic outcome for most of them.
Forced to spend so much time in boring, meaningless classes, yet needing to work to supplement their allowances and meet the high cost of living in Australia, scared by stories of colleges going bust or agents failing to lodge paperwork for visa applications, they have much more to worry about than being mugged
Australia should have an education export industry. Our education is world class, and there are plenty of buyers. If we want to sell visas as well, the government should make that decision openly, and the money should improve education for Australians rather than line the pockets of agents and purpose-built “education providers”. Just keep the two separate.