ABC Four Corners’ recent report on Australia’s international student trade, entitled “Cash Cows”, provided damning evidence that Australian universities have badly lowered entry and teaching standards in a bid to entice large numbers of lower-quality, full fee-paying international students:

“In terms of attracting international students, universities will do whatever they need to do…they are the cash cows. There is no doubt about it.” Academic

In spite of Four Corners’ expose, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) over the weekend announced that it wants to delay lifting English language requirements for international students in a bid to further bolster enrolment numbers:

The university has already paused “further upward changes to academic and English requirements [for oveseas students] until market conditions improve,” the meeting was told…

Agents recruit students in overseas markets and claim a slice of tuition fees as commission.

To boost international numbers, UNSW is also considering waiving more application fees, launching more international scholarships and trialling a China call centre, or “offshore contact hub”, next year…

The UNSW presentation revealed that total domestic revenue for term one was $198 million, and total international revenue was $266 million…

A spokeswoman for UNSW said it now had more international students on campus than ever before, “and we are proud to have one of the world’s largest global student communities”.

UNSW has experienced explosive growth in international students. As shown in the below Department of Education and Training chart, international student enrolments at UNSW have more than tripled from 6,491 in 2000 to 20,202 in 2017:

Indeed, UNSW had the equal second largest share of commencing international students in Australia, whose share has also ballooned from 30.2% in 2012 to 42.9% in 2017:

At the same time, full-time non-academic staff numbers at UNSW have ballooned from 2,570 in 2000 to 3,582 in 2017 – an increase of 1,012. By comparison, academic staff numbers have risen from 1,927 in 2000 to 3,297 – an increase of 1,370:

Therefore, UNSW appears to have spent much of its international student fee bonanza on padding its bureaucracy. This is a particular problem because most international students are from non-English speaking backgrounds and are higher maintenance than local students. That’s a double whammy for local students seeking a high quality education.

The truth is that Australia’s universities are opposed to higher English-language requirements because they are making out like bandits from the international student boom, and stricter requirements necessarily means fewer numbers and lower profits.

Sadly, the negative impacts on education standards, overcrowding in Australia’s major cities, and wages (given international students are key victims of exploitation and wage theft) are being ignored by universities and policy makers alike.