At least 21 student visas have reportedly been cancelled since May, some of which were linked to concurrent study and course-switching.
In a Facebook post, one migration agent wrote about a student who changed courses from a Bachelor’s “to a package of trade courses”. According to the agent, the student’s visa was revoked for changing to a lower-level course, but the agent successfully appealed this decision.
The practice of students switching to cheaper providers has been ongoing for years in Australia, with students often enrolling in multiple courses under concurrent study rules.
This has come under greater scrutiny in recent months as institutions claim that uncapped work hours have led to a rise in the number of students doing so.
Meanwhile, the issue has been discussed numerous times during recent ongoing inquiries into the international education sector, including at recent hearings by the joint committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade, which heard that onshore agents are helping students to switch.
It has been revealed that the Education Department highlighted the issue internally in March 2022, in a leaked memo noting that concurrent study rules were being ‘misused”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The memo reportedly said that between 2018 and 2021, “in a very large majority of cases, the initial [course] was not continued after one month of enrolment and the student instead continued only in the second course”.
Writing on LinkedIn, Ravi Lochan Singh, director of Global Reach, described the revelation as “shocking”.
“The government has known of this issue for years and department even recommended a fix but no action was taken,” he wrote.
The Association of Australian Education Representatives in India sent a petition last week to Australia’s Home Affairs Minister, repeating calls for the government to link student visas to institutions.
“Institutes and agents who have spent considerable amount of time and money on the recruitment activity overseas are losing revenue”
“While students are allowed to study a second course and this is a good option but the concurrent CEO policy is also misused with the loopholes in the system have encouraged certain RTO’s to act unethically and commercially,” the group wrote.
“As a result, institutes and agents who have spent considerable amount of time and money on the recruitment activity overseas are losing revenue and rules are being flouted,” AAERI continued, adding that the loophole is “attracting non-genuine students”.
“There is increase [in] fraud and the brand of international education in Australia is being affected.”
Student visas are already linked to institutions in the UK and New Zealand.
In the long term, AAERI said the government should ban commission for the onshore recruitment of students.
It comes as Australian universities continue to refuse to accept applications from students in certain regions of India, citing concerns around fraud.
Federation University and Western Sydney University are the latest to inform agents that they will no longer accept students from regions including Punjab, Haryana, and Gujarat.
Nishidhar Borra, president of AAERI, said universities should avoid “region-based bias”.
“The assumption by a few universities that all students from certain parts of India are ‘high risk’ is grossly unfair and discriminatory,” he said.
The Australian Department of Home Affairs did not respond to questions from The PIE ahead of publication of this article.