University of Melbourne: Proposed Int’l Student Caps Will Harm Australia’s Reputation, Lead to Budget Cuts

Australia Oceania International Studies Higher Education News by Erudera News Jun 20, 2024

University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne has expressed concern over Australia’s proposed cap on international student numbers, saying such a decision would harm the sector and Australia’s reputation among international students.

In a statement on June 19, 2024, the school said caps on international students would lead to budget cuts, affect domestic students and result in layoffs, reports.

Commenting on these plans, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global, Culture & Engagement) at the University of Melbourne Michael Wesley said international students bring "numerous benefits to the nation."

“These caps are penalising the sector for a temporary, larger-than-expected increase in student numbers due primarily to the pandemic lag effect. Already the number of international students granted visas to come to Australia has decreased dramatically, with student visa grants down 34 percent in March compared to the same time in 2023,” Wesley remarked.

The university further stated that capping international student numbers will reduce funding for teaching and research, areas that already receive insufficient funding. This, it said, will lead to staff cuts and program cancellations as early as next year.

“Caps could also seriously harm Australia’s GDP, as spending by international students accounted for more than half of Australia’s economic growth in 2023, causing ripple effects across the economy,” the university added.

Wesley also expressed concerns that it could be legislated without consultations with universities beforehand.

Australia is set to cap international student enrollment as part of the Draft International Education and Skills Strategic Framework, which aims to contribute to the high-quality education and student experience for all students in the country.

Universities that want to admit more international students will have to prove they are able to provide extra purpose-built student accommodation for both international and Australian students. Moreover, before enrolling international students, newly registered higher education institutions must show a track record of course quality for Australian students.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said in his budget speech that the number of international students at each university will be capped based on a formula that includes the capacity to build housing.

According to data, international education is the fourth largest export in Australia, supporting about 250,000 jobs and universities’ research. Government figures show that, in March 2024, there were 741,224 international students in Australia, 16 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels, specifically in the same period in 2019.

The top five sending countries for international students to Australia are:

  • China (22 percent)
  • India (17percent)
  • Nepal (8 percent)
  • Philippines (5 percent)
  • Vietnam (5 percent)

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