Submission to Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Quality and Integrity) Bill 2024

02 July 2024

The international student sector is our fourth largest export industry, worth $48 billion in 2023. It provides considerable income for businesses, delivers higher revenues to governments, supports universities to offer high-quality education for domestic students, is critical to maintaining our research capacity, and is a major channel for soft diplomacy, especially in the Asia Pacific region.

The role of international education in generating export revenue is expected to grow as some traditional resources areas decline in a decarbonised economy. The education sector is one where Australia has a clear global competitive advantage.

The BCA strongly advocates for a long-term migration strategy that is supported by infrastructure, planning and housing policies that facilitate growth. Australia is experiencing a housing crisis and the post-COVID surge in temporary migrants, including international students, has been said to exacerbate these pressures.

But the housing crisis has not been caused by international students. Poor regulation, failed planning, skills shortages in construction and high building costs have reduced new housing on the market. No new houses mean higher prices and fierce competition for quality accommodation - further exacerbated by shifts in household size, which have trended down over time and accelerated during the pandemic.

If we are to solve the housing crisis, we need to go to the core of the problem. Short term policy reactions such as a cap on international student numbers will not fix the issue, will detract from real solutions and have negative consequences for the broader economy.

Australia is currently experiencing some of the worst skill shortages in its history. One in three occupations had worker shortages in 2023. New and expanding sectors such as the net zero transition, defence, including for AUKUS, construction and manufacturing, and the growing need for care and digital skills have led to skilling pressures across the economy. The university and Vocational Education and Training (VET) sectors are critical to ensuring Australia can reduce these gaps and should be supported to provide quality education to all.

International student revenue is essential for research efforts and the teaching of domestic students. A blunt cap on international student numbers will place these activities at risk. Unless significant additional Government funding is planned for the sector, a cap will also limit universities’ ability to meet the Government’s ambitious equity and attainment targets, as set out in the Australian Universities Accord.

For these reasons, the BCA opposes managed growth as outlined in the International Education and Skills Strategy Framework (the Framework) and blunt caps on enrolments as set out in the Bill. We support the additional quality and integrity measures in the Bill and believe shutting down unscrupulous providers will go a long way to reducing student numbers. Home Affairs’ focused action in this area is underway as part of the Migration Strategy and international student numbers have already dropped 36 per cent from this time last year.

This submission therefore relates primarily to Part 7 Enrolment Limits and Part 8 Automatic Cancellation of Specified Courses. The BCA recommends the Government review the underpinning policy objectives of the Framework and the Bill and reconsider the amendments accordingly.

Read our full submission here


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