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Australia: PM flags push away from cities for int’l education

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison’s intimation that international students may be included in a plan to push temporary migrants away from the cities of Sydney and Melbourne has been derided by the country’s industry.

The Australian government plans to move international students to regional areas. Photo: Daniel SeßlerThe Australian government plans to move international students to regional areas. Photo: Daniel Seßler

Ongoing rhetoric has included that public transport within both Sydney and Melbourne has become used predominantly by international students

In an interview for online radio program Miranda Live, Morrison said the government was looking at a “number of measures” to reduce pressures on infrastructure in the New South Wales and Victorian capitals, a point he reiterated in a later press conference.

“It might be good to actually provide the full fare paying customers with additional busses”

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that what we’re doing is we’re going to better manage population growth in this country,” he said.

“Up in the north [in Queensland], they want more population, in Adelaide they want more population. I can tell you, in the outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, they don’t.”

Comparing population growth to new seats on a bus, Morrison claimed Australia had reached a point where four out of every 10 new seats were taken by temporary migrants, such as working holiday makers and student visa holders.

Morrison’s plans appear to have come as a surprise to Australian international education stakeholders, however, with no apparent sector consultation prior to his comments.

“If this is going to be more than just a thought bubble by the new prime minister, then it would be good to have some consultation with the international education sector about how it might be at all possible to implement,” IEAA chief executive Phil Honeywood said.

“Students who are motivated by global university ranking status will still be attracted to study at the Australian university [with a high] academic ranking.”

“Decisions around student placement… would have a vast impact on the majority of English language providers”

Ongoing rhetoric within Australia has included comments that public transport within both Sydney and Melbourne has become used predominantly by international students.

“The PM’s comment that four in ten people on the busses in Sydney may well be international students overlooks the fact those four in ten are paying full public transport fare,” Honeywood said, referencing New South Wales’ lack of concessions for international students.

“It might be good to actually provide the full fare paying customers with additional busses, given they’re offsetting the cost of concession fare payers.”

English Australia chief executive Brett Blacker said with 93% of English language students in a metropolitan area, any measure that sought to force students away, rather than promote the benefits of regional providers, would have a profound impact.

“Many of Australia’s English language providers are metropolitan based and therefore decisions around student placement or where the policy drivers could lead would have a vast impact on the majority of English language providers,” he said.

“Australia would love to have you study here”

Speaking with The PIE News at the annual English Australia conference, Blacker added that discussions on the impact increasing international students have on infrastructure ignored that temporary migrants did not result in compound increases to the population.

“Successfully, we had 624,000 students here last year, the growth on that this year would be relatively small in terms of total student numbers,” he said.

“That doesn’t have as much impact as a permanent residency program whereby you do have to look at the other social systems and infrastructures that are going to support them for the longer.”

More sophisticated models around the impact of temporary residents as well as further modelling on the employment benefits of students was also needed, he said.

At this stage, how Australia’s government may choose to move students away from Sydney and Melbourne, either through force or encouragement, is unclear.

Morrison said further plans would be revealed in time, a point echoed by Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson.

“Our strong message to prospective international students and their families is that Australia would love to have you study here,” she said.

“Whether they choose to study in our major cities or our regions, the welcome is every bit as warm.”

Australian industry “rip tides”  featured in the latest edition of The PIE Review.

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